Monthly Archives: April 2007

Save Net Radio

The future of Internet radio is in danger.

I am not sure what I can do to save it, except announce why I value Internet radio and ask you to join me in my support of the “Internet Radio Equality Act,” introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.).

I tried to put the banner up on my blog here but I am not sure how to do it. I posted a picture of their banner instead. So please click on this link and go to

www.savenetradio.org

If you live in the United States, the above website will give you information on how to contact your congressman. If you are an international listener like myself, you can sign a petition and post your comments. I encourage everyone to do this.

I love Internet radio. I listen to live365.com to get programming that is not available on regular commercial radio. I value this service so much that I subscribe to it. I have no problem paying for this service. My problem is that the government of the United States of America are subjecting this form of radio to unfair fees. It is not fair.

Listeners of net radio do not download the music or own it in anyway. Net radio is just like regular AM or FM radio. We listen to it the same way. It should be in line with regular radio.

I know why it is important to track what songs are played and how often. I support that stations operate the same way as regular radio and pay the fees so that artists and labels get paid when their music is played. This has been happening with the creditable and mainstream net radio stations and service providers.

Here is a quotation from Live365.com’s website,

Internet radio, particularly Live365, has been paying its fair share of royalties to composers, performers, publishers, artists, and record labels since day one. We’d like a call for parity in royalty treatment for all radio formats, including Internet, terrestrial (AM/FM), satellite, and cable.

The new government bill that subjects Internet radio stations to a 300% increase in fees this year and a 1200% increase over the next five years takes affect on May 15, 2007. We need to stop this now.

Internet radio does not hurt artists or labels. It supports them the same way that regular radio does. In fact, this year alone, I have bought more CDs than I have in the past several years. Most of the new CDs I bought this year came to my attention from net radio, and in particular the excellent station thebassment.com (see my post Recognizing Talent that I posted on Tuesday April 24, 2007)

So please do something to save net radio. If we don’t, most net radio stations will be bankrupt and silenced on May 15, 2007. We cannot allow this to happen. Thank you.

Words Spoken are not Premeditated

Have you ever been surprised by what you said? Of course—but that would be impossible if you knew in advance what you were going to say.

This is a small quotation from Robert J. Sawyer’s Mindscan. I must say that I am really enjoying this book. It certainly has me thinking about a lot of things. Today I have been thinking about the scene from which this quote came from. It has me wondering about the relationship between speech and thought.

I believe that it is impossible to think before we speak in all occasions. I know that I have put my foot in my mouth one too many times in this life. I have said things that I immediately had wished that I could have withdrawn. Why did I say these things? Was I not thinking? Apparently not. I have learned in my times not to be so blunt but besides making faux pas, I have also said some pretty intelligent and amazing things from time to time.

One thing I do when I am working on a writing project, essay, or assignment is to talk about the subject I am writing about. I have discovered that I can figure things out and come to amazing insights through my speech more so than I can with just thinking. I am not alone in this either. Marshall McLuhan wrote,

I have to engage in endless dialogue before I write. I want to talk a subject over and over… I do a lot of my serious work while I’m talking out loud to people. I’m feeling around, not making pronouncements. Most people use speech as a result of thought, but I use it as the process.

I agree with his statement wholeheartedly. It reminds me of how Emcees can come up with intricate rhymes right off the top of their heads, how comedians can improvise routines and scenes in the same way, and how as a teacher I can deliver a lesson and come up with examples to relate to the class seemingly out of nowhere.

I always knew that my brain discovered things from talking. I used this to help me through university. Discussing a text often opened up new ways for me to see the book and the topic of my essays. It was like magic. And it still works. The only problem is finding someone to bounce all my ideas off of.

Here is another Mindscan quote,

You might start a sentence that will end up being twenty or thirty words long. Do you really believe that you have thought out that whole sentence in your brain before you start speaking it? Stop for a moment right now, and think this thought: ‘On the way home from court today, I’d better pick up some bread and milk.’ It took measurable time for you to think that, and yet we can talk nonstop for extended periods without pauses to work out the thoughts we want to express. No, in most speech we discover what it is that we’re going to say as it is said—just as those listening to us do.

So, if we are in agreement here, that speech is not premeditated and that we can’t possible think of everything that we are going to say. Where does this speech come from?

I love being able to mull over topics through dialogue and conversation. I have used speech to write songs, and I know other artists who do the same thing. Sometimes just turning on the microphone and hitting record, not knowing what you are going to do can end up in a great song idea, and on lucky occasions an entire song.

There are so many mysteries in life. I love the mystery of speech.

Intensity

A friend told me today that I can be intense and that it sometimes seems like I put across a “my way or the highway” attitude. As soon as he said it, I could see where he was coming from. I am intense. I do like things my way but I don’t play the “my way or the highway” game. I never have. I am flexible and laid back. But as he was telling me these things I had a bit of an epiphany. I could see myself outside of myself and everything seemed really clear.

I think that it is very hard to know what people are thinking or how they are responding to you. My friend told me that it is just a part of my personality and that we don’t normally think about things like this. He’s right. I don’t put too much thought into what other people think of me. I try to be a good person and do the right things but I don’t worry about what other people think of me. Of course, there are situations when you do need to worry about these things like job interviews, parent-teacher nights, and the like.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my personality today. I could see character traits in myself that I never paid much attention to before. I know where this intensity came from too, my Dad. He taught me to be a strong person, to stand up for what I believe in and to do the right thing. All that I am today, I think I owe to him. I am a strong person because of his influence.

In light of my friend’s comments today, I thought of a time when someone said the complete opposite to me. It wasn’t too long ago either. This person was upset at me because I wasn’t reacting as emotionally to something she obviously thought I should. She was mad at me for being too laid back. She was basically mad at me for not being mad. I couldn’t figure this out at all. I tried to let her know that that was just not how I dealt with things. I was never the type of person to yell and punch walls. What good does that do?

Of course, I am a paradox to myself though because I can see how I might be taken as being too intense but I am also laid back. These two things would seem completely opposite but I seem to integrate them both into my personality seamlessly. I tend not to worry or let things bother me. I can go with the flow and I can go after what I want. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

How Can Words Be Property?

I just can’t put down this book by Robert J. Sawyer. Mindscan is a great read that actually touches on some interesting issues concerned with the act of writing. It is an entertaining book and fun to read but it keeps giving me things to think about. Today, it has me thinking about copyright issues and the idea of intellectual property.

One of the debates over intellectual property is how long it should remain protected. Should copyright laws protect intellectual property forever or should the works fall into public domain as they do now? It’s an interesting debate and the characters in Sawyer’s novel touch on it.

The author character talks to Jake, the inherited owner of a profitable brewery. She talks about how intellectual property is only protected for so many years after the author’s death and then she relates it to Jake’s situation.

And you benefit financially from that to his day. Should the government instead have confiscated all the assets of Sullivan Brewing, or whatever the company’s called, on the seventieth anniversary of Old Sully’s death? Intellectual property is still property, and it should be treated the same as anything else human beings build or create.

This is a very good argument. Writers spend a lot of time building up a catalogue of work. Why shouldn’t their efforts be passed down to their children and grandchildren the way businesses are? Instead, their work becomes public after they die. Is this fair?

I don’t think too many people think about this. I know that I don’t give it as much attention as I should.

I’m an avid reader. I love books. I have bookcases and bookcases full of books at home but by far, the vast majority of what I read, I don’t pay for. Most of what I read comes from the library. I guess the library has to pay for the books so the authors still get paid. I must confess, I never really thought of this before today. I am a huge supporter of the library and will continue to be. I think libraries are a vital part to any community and are far underused, but I think this is a different topic completely. I don’t think any author would complain that their books are in the library. They still have control over those words, how they are used and they still hold the copywrite.

One thing I don’t understand is how books that are written by someone who is long dead, have copyright notices on them. Why does Shakespeare’s work have copywrite notices on the collections? Does the publishing company own those words or just the presentation of them? The words are public domain but the publisher owns the books and presentation of them, how does this make sense?

Writers work hard and deserve to have their work protected. I am not just saying this because I am a writer. I care about my favourite writers and don’t know how I would be here today without them. Is there anything we can do to protect intellectual property?
I think we need to stop asking if words can be property and start thinking seriously about ways to acknowledge and protect intellectual property. Are you with me?

Recognizing Talent

On the weekend, I saw a television show called Songwriter’s Circle. It featured Chantal Kreviazuk and a few other musicians. It was an interesting to show to watch because every song that she sang I recognized. I haven’t really paid any attention to this artist. I couldn’t tell you the name of any of her songs or her albums but I know who she is, and I know her songs. She has been all over the radio for the past several years and has quite a few hits.

She sat at her keyboard in the songwriter’s circle and every time she played I was totally captivated. She has a beautiful voice and her songs have nice melodies and themes to them. I wonder why I haven’t paid any attention to her before. Did I not recognize her talent? I knew who she was. I could even sing along to some of her songs when they came on the radio.

This got me thinking about how we recognize talent. How do we find songs and artists that we come to love? I used to discover artists in only one of three ways; I saw a music video, or a friend introduced me to a CD or tape, or I heard something on a radio show.
This year I have discovered a few artists that I am really enjoying in several different ways.

First, I saw a songwriter’s circle at the East Coast Music Awards this year and I was really impressed with a song I heard called “When it comes my turn.” I then did some research and found out about David Myles and his CD Things Have Changed. I ordered the CD and it is excellent.

Secondly, I discovered another artist this year by searching Ebay’s 1 cent CD listings. I noticed a CD that was reviewed in a rap magazine. I thought, hmm, it’s only a penny and I bid on it and won. I had never heard anything from this group before. It was like a blind date that would show up in the mail. When it got here, I was pleasantly surprised upon listening to it. It was great. The group is called Sol.illaquists of Sound and the album is entitled as if we existed.

Lastly, I discovered a few new groups from listening to Internet radio. I was fortunate enough to come across Live 365.com a few years ago. They have several different music stations and my favourite is one called The Bassment.com. This station is absolutely amazing and I highly recommend that you check it out. They play underground hip hop, music that is hard to find on the radio or television these days. If Nas knew this station existed, he wouldn’t be saying that hip hop is dead. I have found artists that I love on this station and have ordered their CDs. Here is the list; The Procussions, move.meant, and Murs. These are three amazing artists that I might not have otherwise heard.

So I discovered some new artists in new ways this year and I have supported them. Like I said yesterday, I still buy CDs and my collection is growing. I think we need to support artists that we love. The only problem is that I can’t possibly buy everything that I like. My tastes are varied and forever expanding and I need to really watch my spending more now. I would love to go buy Chantal Kreviazuk’s catalogue upon hearing her last night, but I am sorry to say that I, more than likely, will not be buying her stuff anytime soon. Sorry Chantal, I can hear you on the radio and I love your music but I need to pinch my pennies. That’s just how it is.

Digital Revolution

We are in the midst of a digital revolution and quite frankly it is scary. We are truly treading into new and untested waters. People might say that we have already gone through this but I don’t think that it truthful. Sure cassette tapes changed the way we view and purchase music but digital music is a completely different beast.

I don’t own an MP3 player but I don’t know if I will be able to hold out for much longer. I was a hold out too when CDs first came out. I hated having hundreds of tapes that seemingly became obsolete overnight. Now most stereo systems don’t even come with tape decks. Tapes are dead. I mourn the loss.

Tapes were like part of my childhood. I made mixtapes. I copied albums from my friends. And everywhere that I went, I would take my Cassette Walkman and three or four different tapes with me. It was great. But CDs came and seduced me. I was finally won over to the new format and have about five hundred CDs in my collection now.

I have a hard time thinking of buying music in a digital format. There is something about opening up a plastic cover, pulling out the artwork, reading the liner notes, looking at the photographs and just immersing yourself totally in an album. You can’t do these things with a digital album. It’s not the same. So I still buy albums on CD and don’t plan on buying an MP3 player anytime soon. I am dreading the day when stereo systems may no longer come with a CD player but instead have an input to play and download digital files.

I guess I need to get with the times, but I want to acknowledge the history that we have had. I enjoy albums but the industry seems to be moving away from albums. Singles are the all important beast now. Albums don’t seem to be as good as they used to be because of it. Maybe I am imagining this but I see a scary future ahead.

I would miss having tangible albums that I can hold and explore visually and musically. I don’t know if this revolution will be a good thing. I don’t even want to think about digital books. Call me old school if you want to but I am sticking to my CDs and paperbound books for as long as I can.

Fiction Writing – Where Does It Come From?

I just finished writing Chapter 12 of my novel and I introduced a new character in it. I wasn’t planning on having this character in my story. In my mind, I had a rough idea of where I was going with the story and I had already introduced the characters I needed to that end. Where did this new character come from? Why did he just pop into my story? These are questions that I don’t have the answer to. I just typed my story as it came to me and this character was born.

One of my favourite books I have ever read was On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. The book is part autobiography and part writing manual. I highly recommend that anyone who writes anything should read it. King mentions something in the book that I have heard a lot of writers say. He said that at a certain point during writing the characters take over and almost write for you. The book starts to go in directions that you hadn’t planned or imagined. I have felt this happen and perhaps it happened just now in Chapter 12.

It’s a strange feeling to think that we, as writers, create anything. Sometimes when I write I don’t know where these ideas come from. Things take shape in my words and come together in beautiful ways. It is a pleasure to see this happen and not at all scary. The story couldn’t be written without the author, that much is true.

I’m currently reading a novel by Robert J. Sawyer. He is a brilliant science fiction writer and this is the third book of his that I have read. It’s called Mindscan. In it, a writer is asked about the inspiration for Prince Scales, one of her characters in a novel. She says the character wasn’t based on anyone and that she “just made him up.” She continues;

People are desperate to believe writers base characters on real people, that the events in our novels really happened in some disguised way.

I just created this character in Chapter 12 out of thin air too. So what she is saying makes a lot of sense. The person she in having the conversation with admits that he couldn’t make up a plausible story himself and that “talents like that make the rest of us feel inadequate.”

She continues,

No, if you don’t mind me saying so, it goes deeper than that, I think. Don’t you see? The idea that false people can just be manufactured goes to the heart of our religious beliefs. When I say Prince Scales doesn’t really exist, and you’ve only been fooled into thinking that he does then I open up the possibility that Moses didn’t exist—that some writer just made him up. Or that Mohammed didn’t really say and do the things ascribed to him. Or that Jesus is a fictional character too. The whole of our spiritual existence is based on this unspoken assumption that writers record, but they don’t fabricate—and that, even it they did, we could tell the difference.”

Wow, that is deep.

I remember when I was a kid and went to Sunday school. I was a bit of a brat back then, and I distinctly remember calling the teacher on this. He had told us the story about Jonah and the Whale and I tried to convince him that it was implausible and just a story. I argued that it couldn’t be true. My parents were called in to come get me and I think they were quite embarrassed. I was just speaking how I felt. At the time, I felt that the story was fabricated. I could tell the difference between a made up story and a real one. My parents had taught me the cliché about things on television not always being true. I thought it applied to everything. As such, I broke the “unspoken assumption” and caused more than a few people some discomfort. Of course, this wasn’t my intention.

I think this might be why organized religion seems to be going through a crisis as of late. This “unspoken assumption” is no longer taken as a given. It is also openly challenged. In our scientific world we can disprove some of the religious writings that we have relied on for our spiritual existence for so long. But if we step back and realize the importance of myths maybe truth is as important as we think.

I remember hearing a minister say that we are not meant to understand the Holy Trinity of Christian faith. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit being one is deliberately confusing to remind us that we can never truly understand God. And maybe we can never ever truly understand where ideas come from either. I have had poems, songs, and stories take over and seemingly write themselves. So after mulling over this topic for an hour, I am still no closer to answering my question. Where does fiction come from? We may never know.

Secret Origins

When I was a teenager I got a spiral notebook in a dollar store. I paid for it myself and deliberately picked it out because it was divided into three subjects or sections. One section was to be for poetry, one was to be for rough notes, and the other section became something that I didn’t expect. It became the first version of “Silent Cacophony.”

I just remembered that old green spiral notebook this morning. I don’t know what it was that jogged my memory of it. I haven’t thought of it in a while. It is significant though in terms of the start of my writing career. Back then; I was absolutely sure that I had the world figured out. I was going to share the “secret of life” with the world. To that end, I was writing a book that I titled “Silent Cacophony.”

I remember that I came upon that awkward sounding word on an impromptu search through the dictionary. I did that as a kid. I dug for words the way certain people dig for treasure. I found my treasure in words. New words to me, old words to some, out-dated and forgotten words to others. I loved words and this new word was perfectly awkward sounding and I have not heard anyone use it in their daily language even to this day. This was a unique word. I have heard it on television or in certain lectures since the day I found it, but never in every day conversations.

The dictionary defines cacophony as “a harsh or discordant sound”

That definition fit with how I was feeling at the time. I was an awkward teenager, trying to find my place in the world. The word resonated with me on more than one level. I also felt that I was a bit invisible as a little kid, as all kids do as they are growing up. I felt like I was different than most of my friends and people around me. I felt discordant and I felt silenced. So the title of my new book was a metaphor for me at the time. It was perfect and Silent Cacophony was born.

I will need to search for my original, unfinished book. I think it may still exist somewhere. I would love to read it and remember why I thought I had everything figured out back then. I certainly don’t now. I remember some of what I wrote in that little book and I will share that in upcoming blog entries.

Global Warming Myth

We need myths to help us understand things that we are not meant to understand. Myths serve a real purpose. It doesn’t bother me that myths exist that run contrary to what I believe. Anything that helps another person make sense of their life and function more properly within it cannot be a bad thing. That being said, I need to comment on the biggest myth that seems to be planting itself into common consciousness these days, global warming.

There is no way that we can know what affect we are having on this planet. While it logically makes sense that we cannot be doing a service to the planet through all of the pollution that we create, it doesn’t make sense to attribute it to global warming. I will wholeheartedly agree that there are some strange things happening with the weather these days. I will even agree that it is happening on a global scale. But climate change and global warming are two separate things.

Our recorded history is relatively short in comparison to the length of time that our planet has existed. Our weather data goes back only a sliver of time in comparison. How can anyone say that the global warming exists?

I watched Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” the other day. He didn’t convince me at all. I got really tired of seeing his line graphs. Those graphs didn’t seem to prove anything. How do we know that the Earth doesn’t have cyclical changes of weather and that this trend is normal and to be expected? How do we know that this current change of weather is not part of the evolution of our planet?

Climate change is something that does exist, worldwide. This much is obvious and documented. A recent episode of Daily Planet touched on this. A world traveler told the cameras that everywhere he goes; the local people talk about it. They tell him how it is drier or wetter or hotter, etc. They don’t seem to know why, they haven’t heard of global warming. The interesting fact is how that our climate change isn’t solely related to heat. In fact, last week we had record low temperatures across North America. We are getting late snowstorms even now, in spring. Global warming – no. Climate change – yes.

I know that I may sound like a crazy person for not believing in this latest myth, but I’m not. I know that we need to make some drastic changes to the way we live. We need to cut down on pollution in every single way that we can. I do my part. I am very green. I recycle. I walk, take the bus, bike, or even skateboard to get to places. I have a car but I have truly cut down on using it this year. I do my part for the environment. I clean up trash around the neighbourhood when I see it.

If people choose to accept the global warming myth as fact, it might be a good thing. Hopefully it scares people into looking closely at the interaction we have with this planet. We need to drastically change things now. I agree with that. If this myth helps to that end, then I say “Great!” That is what myths are for after all.

Radio Theatre

Last night was a first for me and for my students as well. We went to the community radio station and took over the airwaves for an hour. It was a great experience that started from a small idea earlier in the year.

I tried doing reader’s theatre with my class in the first term and it was a disaster. In fact, every reader’s theatre I have ever done with any of my classes always seemed to feel a bit artificial. I had an idea to solve that. I thought that it would be a great idea to write our own reader’s theatre scripts.

I had introduced them to old time radio earlier in the year and explained what we were doing from the outset. They understood that they would be going on the radio to perform the plays live. I already had the class divided into four small reading groups and I regularly meet with each group twice a week. So in our groups, we sat down together and I guided them into collectively picking a topic, coming up with their own characters and writing a script. This took step took us to weeks.

Some of the ideas I got were great. The first script was about visiting an elder in the hospital. The second story involved the three characters shrinking to four inches in height and battling a mouse in the house. The third story was about an ice-fishing accident and rescue, and the final story was about a hockey tournament.

Once the scripts were written, we practiced them for two weeks until we were all confident that we knew the material and could present it well. I was proud of them and all the hard work that had put into the project and last night it paid off. Things didn’t go as smoothly as they did in the rehearsals in the classroom. I think they were a little too excited to be on the radio. We all had a really good time and they did a great job. I was so proud of them.

We got two calls while we were on the air. We got praise from both callers but the one hoped that we could do it again. I would really like to go back and try it again. I think that it might be better just to bring one of the groups next time though as it was a little crazy having a whole class in the small station. But it was so much fun. I enjoyed myself as much as I’m sure the kids did. Our first attempt at the Grade 4 radio theatre was a success.