The little mp3…

June 6, 2006

It was hard to guess, but not that unrealistic.  Fifteen years ago when the mp3 format was invented nobody would expect that this would’ve changed our society in so many ways.

There were many casualties in this battle: Napster, KaZaA, WinMx, Audiogalaxy, SuprNova, The Pirate Bay to name a few.  Far too many, one would argue, for a simple audio format…

The latest in this battle is now being fought against  This site offers music download facilities for customers with prices at a fraction of their usual cost (around €1.5 for an entire music album).  AllOfMP3 uses, quite cleverly, a loophole in Russian copyright law that allows them to sell tracks at a fraction of the cost of its western rivals.  These guys are already responsible for about 14% of all music downloads in the UK alone!

But things are getting serious, i.e. they about to be over. In the US they are concerned with AllofMP3.  According to the New York Times the US trade negotiators warned that “the Web site could jeopardize Russia's long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization.”

Can you believe that?


The Eternal Value of Privacy

June 6, 2006

Bruce Schneier
May, 18, 2006

The most common retort against privacy advocates — by those in favour of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures – is this line: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these – as right as they are – is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

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‘Dr Strangelove, c’est moi’

June 5, 2006

Before he turned to film, Stanley Kubrick was the 'secret sniper', photographing showgirls, boxers and no-hopers all over New York. Frederic Raphael looks back on the director's first great love

Saturday November 26, 2005
The Guardian

Born in 1928, Stanley Kubrick was raised in the Bronx, the son of a respectable and successful GP, Dr Jacques Kubrick, and his wife, Gertrude. There was no manifest reason for young Stanley to regard himself an outsider; it was scarcely unusual to be a Jew in his neighbourhood, but he once told me – kidding, of course – "I'm not Jewish; I just had two Jewish parents." A loner from early on, irregular in attendance, and performance, at school, he didn't mix with the local gang and was, said one of them, "always a mystery". Unlike the no less mysterious (and secretive) artist Balthus, Stanley did not "escape" a defining identity by fabricating a non-Jewish lineage; he set out instead to transcend banal circumstance by making a name for himself as the highest possible form of invisible man: first photographer, then film director.

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The Bible story: holy shit

May 31, 2006

Conception through the left earhole, a 14-year-old virgin impregnated by God, and other wacky Easter tales.
by Dave Hallsworth
It's Easter again, that time which the Christian Churches claim is the anniversary of the crucifixion of Joshua Ben Joseph (aka Jesus Christ) by the Roman occupiers of Jerusalem. Maybe it's also about time some of the followers of Christianity, the remaining faithful, asked what exactly it is they're putting their faith in.

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Throw open the books so that we can see what everyone earns

May 8, 2006

Trust and social glue are corroded by pay secrecy and the greed-is-good culture. Transparency would change all that

Polly Toynbee
Friday April 21, 2006
The Guardian

What is anyone worth? Since people trust GPs above all others, it may reflect popular will to super-pay some of them £250,000, with their average £100,000 doubling since 2000. But if you want proof for the counterintuitive truth that more money doesn't make people happier, then the miserable doctors are a good example. Neither consultants (68% increase) nor GPs seem one jot happier for their recent windfall. Their union, the BMA, pumps out ever angrier anti-government press releases complaining of "vindictive treatment" in this year's "shocking" pay offer as they demand another 4.5%.

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From Russia with love

April 28, 2006

Mikhail Kalatozov's account of the Castro revolution, Soy Cuba, is more than Soviet agitprop. It's one of the great forgotten movies of the 1960s, says Richard Gott

Saturday November 12, 2005
The Guardian
They were making Soy Cuba when I first went to Havana in 1963, and my hotel seemed full of Russians. Even today this Soviet-Cuban film that purports to be about Cuba's revolution is a wonderful evocation of everyone's first-time impressions of the island, with the royal palm trees in the countryside and the Havana skyline taking pride of place. It remains one of the great movies of the 1960s, though it rarely appears in dictionaries of film. Few people outside Cuba or the old Soviet Union have ever seen it, and it was not shown in the US until the 1990s. Those who have had the chance to see it recognise it at once as one of the masterpieces of world cinema, the outcome of the Soviet Union's first exposure to the world beyond its frontiers since Eisenstein's encounter with the Mexican revolution in the 1930s which produced his unfinished opus Viva Mexico.

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Rules of engagement

April 21, 2006

Censorship battles once focused on books, but today the performing arts are under attack, especially works that mix drama and documentary. David Edgar argues that free speech must be preserved if artists are to be protected from a witchhunt

Saturday October 22, 2005
The Guardian

When Edmund Morris is commissioned to write a biography of Ronald Reagan, he invents a schoolfriend for the president, with his own name, from whose perspective he can describe the events of the president's childhood. When novelist and biographer Peter Ackroyd writes a biography of novelist Charles Dickens, he inserts fictional sections. When Philip Roth writes a novel based on his marriage to Claire Bloom, she responds with a memoir giving her side of the story. Prevented by legal agreement from writing about her famous husband, Ivana Trump commissions a ghost-writer to write a novel about the break-up of her marriage. When William Boyd writes a fake biography of an American artist, several New York critics claim knowledge of his work.

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Manderlay: the danger of do-gooding

April 18, 2006

by Philip Cunliffe

Manderlay is the sequel to Lars von Trier's Dogville, and the second in a trilogy exploring modern America. With a new cast, the film continues where the previous one left off, trailing a motley crew of itinerant gangsters searching for new hunting grounds in Depression-era America. Their search leads them to stumble upon the isolated Alabama plantation of Manderlay, where slavery continues unabated, complete with floggings, nearly a century after Abraham Lincoln's emancipation proclamation. The story follows the failure of the protagonist, the daughter of the mob boss, Grace (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), to bring freedom, community and democracy to the slaves of Manderlay.

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It was almost a night in Vienna…

March 16, 2006

Brigitte Timmermann does justice to a filmic masterpiece with her hotchpotch study, The Third Man's Vienna, says Simon Callow

Saturday February 25, 2006
The Guardian

The Third Man's Vienna
by Brigitte Timmermann
416pp, Shippen Rock, €49

All film schools should be closed down, Michael Winner once remarked, and aspiring directors simply made to watch Carol Reed's The Third Man over and over again. One of a handful of films which bear any amount of repetition, it is a cornucopia of delights: Orson Welles's incomparable cameo as Harry Lime, Anton Karas's maddeningly unforgettable zither theme for him (as well as his witty musical commentary throughout the rest of the film), Robert Krasker's dazzling black-and-white cinematography, Graham Greene's typically laconic and mordantly witty fable of crime, deceit and betrayal, Vincent Korda's superb designs. Yet no list of ingredients ever guarantees success: the very same elements could have been assembled to disappointing effect. What is it, finally, that makes a masterpiece in this most collaborative of mediums?

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Only a game?

November 25, 2005

by Phil Ball

No prizes for guessing the topic of this week's column. But let's start with the politics. As the moving fingers tap out this column it is thirty years to the day since General Franco drew his final breath – an event mourned by some, and celebrated by many.

The fact that Madrid were playing Barça the night before this anniversary was a spooky coincidence, so spooky in fact that it led certain journalists to question the alleged neutrality of the computer program that sorts out the Liga fixtures each season.

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