Sunday, January 31, 2010

I had no idea I lived on Caprica

One would think that after 20-odd (sometimes very odd) years of living here I'd be used to seeing a familiar landmark in a film or television show. I guess not. I decided to watch the Caprica pilot after hearing that two of my favorite actors James Marsters and Peter Wingfield were going to be on the show.

I never watched BSG. I'm old enough to remember the original show and I just couldn't get past Starbuck being a woman. I had no intention of watching the spinoff but I have to say I like it so far. I kind of like sci-fi without the spaceships. Sci-fi in a world that is similar to ours is good too.

I was happily going along with the show until Lacy, Zoe and Ben got to the MagLev station. It was deja vous all over again. I use that same station whenever I can't avoid it. The long escalator they're riding down gives me vertigo. I risked the dizziness to bring you pictures of the Granville SkyTrain Station

You can see brief flashes of the station, the sign, and a futuristic ticket vending kiosk that actually exists in this promo:

The other major landmark I noticed was Caprica City Hall, otherwise known as the Vancouver Public Library - Main Branch

I'm going to have to be very careful to not notice familiar landmarks. For some reason when it's a sci-fi show that recognition is jarring. I get temporarily pushed out of the show's world and into my own. The worst is when I vaguely recognize something but I can't remember what it is. I think I might have to tape the show from now on so I can pause it until I figure out what is bugging me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vancouver Olympics City Guide Examiner

I've just taken a new writing gig as the Vancouver Olympics City Guide Examiner.

I have surrendered. I can't avoid the Olympics so I might as well make some (very little) money and get a bit of writing practice. I thought about this for quite a while. I'm not writing about the Olympics themselves. I'm writing about what's going on in Vancouver while they're on. If there's a protest or a controversy I'm going to write about it. I'm not going to talk about sports.

Come on over and see what's going on. The first article is live. I hope to post one article each day during the week (M-F)so check back often. If you have any suggestions you can email me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Copyright Criminals

I watched an interesting documentary last night. Copyright Criminals looks at "sampling" in Hip Hop. I don't know anything about Rap or Hip Hop but I found the legal mess interesting. I'm of two minds (what else is new?) the song that has samples in it is a different song but they use parts of other recordings to make it so some credit (payment?) should go to the original artists.

One of the people in the documentary commented that hip hop artists would have to pay for anything taken from somewhere else even if it was only a second. It is legally necessary to get "sample clearances" for each sample used. James Brown's famous "Huh!" was the example he gave. Someone else said that someone paid $100,000 for two seconds of Marvin Gaye. It's cheaper to cover a song than it is to sample one.

The money doesn't always go to the artists. Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's drummer in the mid-60s) is supposedly the most sampled musician but he hasn't received a penny because he doesn't own the rights to the music. He was paid for his time in the studio. Sometimes the record's producer has right to the music and money from sampling clearances goes to the producer and not the artist.

A good point on the pro free sampling side is to consider when a photographer takes a picture and then a painter paints a picture from it. The painting is considered a separate work of art.

The above painting by Andy Warhol was based on a publicity photo from the film Niagara. I doubt Warhol paid anything for the use of the photo. If he had the money would have gone to the studio and not the studio's photographer or to Marilyn's estate.

Writers are allowed to quote small pieces from works by other authors without permission as long as the original author is credited. To use a large (more than 4 lines) piece of another authors work the writer would have to get the author's written permission.

I'm thinking the same thing should work for music. If it's just a few seconds everyone should just let it slide. If the sample is large then money (and credit in the liner notes) should go to the original artist.

There is a difference between a "huh!" on a record and having large parts of another song as the basis of the new song. I can think of two songs that went too far Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice and U Can't Touch This by MC Hammer.

The MC Hammer song sampled the main riff from Rick James' Super Freak
Vanilla Ice took a huge chunk out of Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie. Anyone who knew the original songs could tell right away that whole chunks were used in the other songs.

So did Hammer and Ice really write new songs? Should there be a percentage of notes that must be original in order to have a song considered a new entity? Or is using old sounds in an original way enough?

I think it will take a long time before this particular problem is figured out. Don't even get me started on mixtapes.