Sunday, September 30, 2007

All Through the Night - a forgotten classic

Hooray for Netflix! Thanks to their deep catalog I revisited a movie this weekend that I hadn't seen since I was twelve -- and it was even better than I remembered.

"All Though the Night" (1941) casts Humphrey Bogart as "Gloves" Donahue, a dapper sports promoter/gambler that would be quite at home in a Damon Runyon story. His affable gang includes a young Jackie Gleason, Frank McHugh and a dour-faced William Demarest (Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons") as Sunshine. And there's additional comedic help from Phil Silvers, Edward Brophy, and Wallace Ford.

There's a raft of other well-know character actors as well. Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorrie play the bad guys, along with ice queen Judith Anderson. Barton MacLane barks his way through another film, along with Edward Brophy. The redoubtable Jane Darwell (from "The Grapes of Wrath") plays Donahue's mother.

On the surface, it's a breezy little thriller where gangsters cross paths with Nazi spies. A good example of the comedic flavor occurs when Gloves Donahue and Sunshine assume the identities of two spies to infiltrate a Fifth Column meeting and discover their plans. It turns out the identities they stole belonged to the two out-of-town munitions experts who now must make a report. They stall for time with some classic 1940's double talk.

But the movie has a serious side, too. The spy ring forces an expatriate, Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne), to work for them by holding her father at Dachau. Gloves, who begins the movie not caring at all what happens on the front page of the paper, eventually finds out what Dachau is, and what the Nazis are all about. The film follows an American moving from apathy about world events to an understanding that what happens abroad impacts his daily life -- and even his way of life.

An interesting turning point comes when the urbane master spy Franz Ebbing is confronted by Donahue. From Ebbing's point of view, they should be allies. And at the beginning of the film Donahue might have agreed. But not after learning about what Ebbing stands for.

The past is often filtered through the experience of the present, and I wonder how others might interpret that scene. I can see some people identifying the current administration in Ebbing's words.
"It's a great pity, Mr. Donahue, that you and I should oppose each other. We have so much in common. You are a man of action. You take what you want and so do we. You have no respect for democracy. Neither do we. It's clear we should be allies."
While others might point to this dialogue to demonstrate the danger of disunity in the face of terrorism (our latter-day Fifth Columnists).
"Do you ever see the faces of these Americans as they read the headlines? Already we have split them into angry little groups flying at each other, unconscious that they are doing our work. You'll see. In a year, perhaps less than a year, they will all be taking their orders from us."
Of course the original message was a lot simpler -- be a patriot, and do your part.

I saw this aired on WTTG 5 in Washington way back in the 1960's when they did Sunday movies. I only saw it once, but always remembered it fondly -- especially Bogart's rapid-fire banter.

I've never met anyone who's seen this film, and that's too bad. If you only know Bogart through "The Maltese Falcon," or "Casablanca," give "All Through The Night" a try. It's an evening's entertainment for sure.

- Ralph

Thursday, September 27, 2007

HD Radio and QVC -- looked good on paper.

The HD Radio Alliance sponsored a half-hour program on QVC last night. As the Alliance breathlessly announced in their press release:
"QVC provides a unique retail at-home environment that is ideal for helping even more consumers discover the cool new content and crystal clear sound provided by HD Digital Radio," said Peter Ferrara, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. "When QVC shoppers see the wide variety of stylish HD Radio receivers and discover the benefits, they are going to want to experience the digital upgrade immediately."
Interestingly enough, that press release and the new Paragon Media study of HD Radio awareness (41% among radio listeners, of which only 9% understood that it required an HD Radio receiver) arrived in my news aggregator about the same time.

So I decided to watch the QVC special aired last night to see exactly how they would pitch this technology with very little consumer awareness (or interest).

To their credit, neither the QVC pitchman nor the representative for HD Radio ever called the technology "high-definition," or "hi-def." Neither did they describe the secondary channels as "the stations between the stations."

Their three key selling points were:
  • Better quality sound
  • More programming choices
  • No subscription fees
They also kept citing two stats over and over: HD Radio technology is in 85% of the radio markets, and over 1,500 stations now broadcast HD Radio signals.

Sounds like it's everywhere -- unless you know that there are currently over 13,000 stations on air. So it would be more accurate to say that a little over 10% of all stations use HD Radio technology. More accurate, but less compelling.

Better quality sound
I won't argue the better sound argument, although I don't think QVC really made the case. They turned up the radios they demoed and ran the sound through the studio's boom mike. Reproduced on my 15-year-old TV's speakers, it sounded anything but "crystal clear." A better demo would have been to also sample an analog broadcast to get an accurate side-by-side comparison.

More programming choices
I couldn't readily find national stats on this, but I do know that only a fraction of the stations broadcasting in HD is even offering an additional digital-only channel.

Just looking at my own state, Virginia, there are approximately 350 stations on the air. Of that number, 33 broadcast HD Radio signals (I'm not counting the "coming soon" listings). Of those 33, 10 have at least one additional digital-only channel. So about 3% of the stations in Virginia offer "more programming choices" -- and they're all public radio stations. I think folks in the Old Dominion looking for the Christian rock, deep country and other formats talked about by QVC are going to be somewhat disappointed.

No subscription fees
True enough, but I've commented on the irrelevance of this selling point before. It was fun to watch the pitch for the Polk I-Sonic when this oblique reference to satellite radio finally came to the fore. The QVC host, running down the bullet points provided by Polk, mentioned it was "XM-Ready, giving you 150 digital channels."

Oops. That went over like a turd in a swimming pool. The HD Radio rep was quick to point out that you needed to buy extra gear and pay a subscription to get that feature while HD Radio was subscription-free.

It was an interesting half hour.

One final thing I noticed. Usually, there's a countdown in the item info bar. How many have sold, how many are left; that kind of thing. That information was absent. At the end of the half hour, I have no idea how many of the three radios were available, nor how many sold.

And no one called in with a testimonial.

- Ralph

"Survivorman" speaker


I'm a big fan of "Survivorman." I like Les Stroud's low-key, Canadian sense of humor, and I appreciate the way he doesn't gloss over or romanticize how tough what he's doing is. Les is resourceful as well and manages to come up with some pretty devices with the odds and ends of gear he has with him or finds upon the way.

I had my own "Survivorman" moment a few days ago. I was setting up camp while doing a three-day bike camping tour on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. I had a small sports radio with me that I sometimes listen to with headphones when I'm in my tent, but while puttering around camp, setting up the tent, building a fire and the like, I wanted to listen to some music -- without having to stick the headphones on.

Scouting around the campsite, I quickly discovered a discarded plastic bottle. Out came the Swiss Army knife, and with a quick cut, I'd built a simple cone amplifier. It's the same principle as the horn on the old wind-up gramophone. I stuck the headphones in and I had a clearly audible signal to listen to.

Les would be proud.

Ken

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where's Ken? Still in Nigeria

Longtime readers have noted Ken's absence from "CE Conversations." He's still around, and we can still look forward to his pithy posts. Ken's been busy both with strenuous physical competitions and inspired fiction writing.

Yes, Ken's been scamming another Nigerian 419 scammer. And this one is even more inspired than the last one.

Our cast of characters involve stars of Universal's horror movies, beginning with Boris Karloff. Boris is reimagined as a Texas businessman, prone to strange cowboy aphorisms invented by Ken. The scammer, the Honorable Dr. Charles Ibeh is hard-pressed to keep up with these bogus colloquialisms, at one point admonishing Boris in tortured syntax to "please use good english when addressing me okay [sic]." He even gets so flustered he starts signing his e-mails Ibeh Charles!

Why the FedEx logo for this post? When Lon Chaney enters the picture, this international carrier plays a pivotal role.

Read and enjoy "The Chronicles of Chuck."

And please -- don't let anyone you know fall for this scam.

- Ralph

Sunday, September 23, 2007

For Better or Worse -- death in the comics

Lynn Johnston has been credited with two innovations in her strip "For Better or Worse" -- the realtime aging of her characters and death coming to two sympathetic characters. While not common, As I pointed out before, neither are these traits unique.

I previously cited other strips whose characters age. It turns out that those visited by the Grim Reaper are mostly a subset of that group.

I neglected to mention "Prince Valiant" last time. When Hal Foster began the Sunday-only epic in 1937, the thirteen-year-old Viking Valiant arrived at King Arthur's court to serve as a squire. Val grew up, married Aleta, Queen of the Misty Isles, and their children have also grown, and some have married as well.



Set in the 6th century Europe, life in "Prince Valiant" is often brutal and violent. While the number of sympathetic characters that have died is low, the actual body count for the strip is pretty high.

Note I qualified the kind of deaths we're talking about. Adventure strips since the early 1900's have regularly killed off villains. Plane crashes, car, and shipwrecks, various explosions -- all effective ways of permanently disposing of the bad guy without showing his actual demise.

"Dick Tracy" has a fair share of both good and bad guys buying the farm -- and Chester Gould didn't shy away from presenting violent death in all its ugliness. The strip started with Tess Trueheart (Dick Tracy's fiancee) and the readers witnessing her parents' murders in a botched robbery. The crime prompted Dick to join the police force, and the rest is history.

As a part of that history, readers have seen villains strangled (Breathless Mahoney), machinegunned (the Fallon brothers), flattened by a tractor trailer (Nylon Rose) and even skewered on a flagpole (the Brow), sliced and pinned to the floor by falling shards of plate glass (Gargles) and more -- right before their eyes. They also saw the death of Junior's mother, and heard -- rather than see, for once -- the car bomb that killed Junior's wife.

"Judge Parker" hasn't had many deaths, but the passing of Neddy and Sophie's grandfather orphaned these homeless sisters and eventually lead to their adoption by Abby Spencer.

And don't forget that "Little Orphan Annie" started out with her parents, um, dead. Ditto with the hero of "Dondi." Although in both those strips, parental demise occurred offstage, and neither character ever aged.

"Funky Winkerbean" probably illustrates best how effective death can be in the hands of a master storyteller. Lisa Moore, who survived a previous bout with cancer, has finally succumbed to the illness in the current storyline. She and her husband mark out her remaining days in hospice care.

And because we've followed Lisa for years, the story has much more depth. Long-time readers remember when, in high school, she had to give up her child for adoption. We've watched her struggle through law school, and breast cancer and just when everything seemed to be going right, face death.

You won't find stories like that in the gag-a-day strips. But it's what rewards the readers of the best continuity strips on a daily basis.

- Ralph

Thursday, September 20, 2007

For Better or Worse -- the aging process

My post reacting to Lynn Johnston's announcement prompted some interesting discussion, both online and off. Most of the folks I talked with only read the humor strips, where the characters never age, and situations never change. Beetle Bailey has been a gold-bricking 20-something army private since 1950. Dilbert will always work in the same office for the same pointy-haired boss (whose hair will never gray). The kids in the Family Circus remain the ages they were when introduced in 1960. And so on.

One of the innovations of "For Better or Worse" is the aging of characters in real time. The last post I offered up some others that also aged their characters. Aging isn't unique, but real time aging is pretty rare.

"Funky Winkerbean" currently has characters aging at a normal rate, but it wasn't always so. The strip started out with the cast as perpetual high school students, a la "Archie." Tom Batiuk jump-started his strip by having the characters graduate from high school, then begin with a panel with the words "five years later." From then on, the now older characters grew and matured.

Many strips have some kind of aging going on, albeit at a very slow rate. When you consider that a daily strip has about two or three panels to move a story forward, the glacial passage of time within the comic can be forgiven.

"Judge Parker," started in 1952, has seen the title character move to the background while his law partner Sam Driver take over the lead. Driver eventually married, and young Randy Parker (the judge's son) has been the focus of some stories -- as have Neddy and Sophie. First introduced to the strip as young children in 1993, Neddy's now in college and Sophie's in high school.

"Rex Morgan, M.D" involved a long-running romance between Dr. Morgan and his nurse, June. In the 1990's this static relationship moved forward. They married, they had a daughter, and who's growing up at a normal rate.

The strip with the longest backstory has to be "The Phantom." Started in 1936, it tells the tale of the current incarnation of the Phantom, a direct descendant of the previous one in an unending line dating back over 400 years. His son Kit, born in the 1970's has grown up in the strip.

"Blondie" is currently ageless, but there have been changes. The 1933 strip started out with the courtship of young Dagwood Bumstead and Blondie. After a few years of married life, Baby Dumpling was born. Baby Dumpling remained frozen in time throughout the 1930's and 1940's and would sudden mature offstage to become the teenaged Alexander Bumstead.

"Dick Tracy" introduced a 10-year-old Junior in 1933. By 1949, he was a teenager and eventually married in his twenties to the Moon Maid in 1970's. Tracy joined the police force as a young man in 1931, and by the time of Chester Gould's retirement in 1977 had been considered as a candidate for chief, due to his seniority (he turned it down -- the position went to Pat Patton, his former partner).



"Gil Thorp" has made an interesting compromise with time. The high school athletic coach who came to Milford High in 1958 has married and raised children -- but 49 years after his arrival he's still on the job with not a gray hair in sight (nor even any male pattern baldness). Nevertheless, the kids that show up on his teams as freshmen only stay in the strip for four years, before they graduate as seniors. So the supporting cast ages normally, while the main characters grow in slo-mo.



Gil Thorp: from 1958 to 2006




There are many more examples, I'm sure. Use the comment field to remind me of some of the ones I've missed! Every sequential storyteller that addresses aging handles it a little differently. It's one of the things that keep me coming back to the comics pages every day.

- Ralph

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

For Better or Worse

Lynn Johnston's recent decision to scale back her work on the daily comic strip "For Better or Worse" is sad news for readers, but not completely unexpected. At one time she announced that would only do the strip for five years (obviously, she changed her mind).

Much is being written about the real-time aging of the "Better or Worse" characters, and the death of some of them, but it's important to remember that none of this is new.

Few comic strip characters die because it's unpleasant for the reader who's formed an attachment to them, and it's also bad business. Dead characters can't (and shouldn't) come back. Most comic strips keep a large cast waiting in the wings, using whichever ones most effectively tell the story. Getting rid of a character decreases the writer's options.

And yet death comes to comics. The first was in a humorous/soap opera strip similar to "For Better or Worse" called "The Gumps." In 1929, one of the characters, the youthful love interest Mary Gold succumbed to a debilitating illness and died. Readers were devastated.

The adventure strip "Terry and the Pirates" was also visited by the grim reaper. A recurring character Raven Sherman died as a result of injuries she sustained through exposure in the Chinese mountains in 1941.




And in 2004 Phyllis Blossom Wallet passed away in her sleep. The wife of Walt Wallet, she had been a key character in the strip "Gasoline Alley" since the 1920's.

Much also has been made about the characters in "For Better or Worse" aging in real time, as opposed to being perpetually the same age as characters usually are in gag strips (like "Peanuts"). Again, this is nothing new. The Gump family grew and aged, albeit at a slow rate.

When Terry Lee arrived in China in 1934 he was a boy of about 12. He grew up before the reader's eyes, becoming a young man and becoming an Air Force pilot in World War II when artist/writer Milton Caniff left "Terry and the Pirates" in 1946. (The strip he started immediately after that, "Steve Canyon" began with a young World War II vet, who aged, retired, and -- paralleling what Johnston is doing with "For Better or Worse" -- began his memoirs so Caniff could recycle earlier strips).

The most famous example, though, is "Gasoline Alley." When Walt Wallet found baby Skeezix abandoned on his doorstep in 1921, the clock started ticking. Skeezix grew up and married. His children also grew up and married, as did their children.



I first started reading "Gasoline Alley" sometime in the 1960's and have continued ever since. As with the characters in "For Better or Worse" I've grown up (and older) with their stories. I know their history and am therefore a little more involved with what happens to them.

Gag-a-day strips continue to dominate, and some folks don't understand the appeal of continuing story strips. It is a different reading experience and one that I think is better -- not worse.

I'll miss "For Better or Worse" when it finally concludes, but I remain grateful for years of involving entertainment.

- Ralph

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This Movie is Rated PD

I've posted about Archive.org before -- a treasure trove of public domain material. It's a great source of information and entertainment. And their library of older movies and serials make for great viewing on an iPod (or other digital media player).

This past week I enjoyed a breezy little mystery from 1936 entitled "I'll Name the Murderer." Produced by Puritan Pictures (a poverty row studio), it's a film that for me had a lot of unfulfilled promises. The basic characters are so engaging, it's a shame that Puritan didn't make a series of films with them (as MGM would do with The Thin Man).

Ralph Forbes plays urbane man-about-town Tommy Tilton, gossip columnist for a New York newspaper. His sidekick, girl photographer Smitty (Marion Shilling) is ever ready to lend a hand, and deliver a wisecrack. Tilton's foil is Police Captain "Pop" Flynn (John Cowell), a no-nonsense detective who, of course, goes for the obvious suspect and misses the important clues that Tilton puts together to solve the case.

While not quite on the level of William Powell and Myrna Loy, the byplay between Tilton and Smitty is engaging and witty. Here's how the film introduces Tilton to the audience (note that the budget didn't allow for the producers to actually show the car wreck).

video

Here's the full cast of characters gathered in Flynn's office -- one of whom murdered the blackmailing nightclub singer Nadia Renee. Ted Benson, Tilton's friend whose gone missing is "Pop" Flynn's candidate, but perhaps it was someone else. Maybe Luigi, the nightclub owner? Valerie Delroy, the dancer? Her partner, Walton?

Note how Tilton takes Flynn off-hand remark and turns it into a plan of action. Although Tilton detects more by intuition than observation and deduction, it gets the job done.

video


Here's another scene with Tilton and Flynn. Like his relationship with Smitty, it seems as if these two are old friends with some history between them.

video

I think additional movies about Tilton and Smitty solving murders on Broadway, at society gatherings, and so on with the reluctant help of "Pop" Flynn would have been great. But for some reason, "I'll Name the Murderer" remains the only appearance of these three characters. And that's too bad.

Is "I'll Name..." the greatest film mystery of the 1930's? No. Not by half. But it is a solid 70 minutes of entertainment.

So if you're looking for something to fill your iPod (or other digital media player) with, remember Archive.org. Sure, their public domain selections are old. But darn it, they're just a lot of fun -- and free. Look how much enjoyment I got out of this one!

- Ralph

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Virtual Body Politic

The fallout surrounding the recent Republican candidate's debate on Fox News provides good examples of the power -- and the impotence -- of the Internet.

Texas congressman Ron Paul has an active following, who have repreatedly called Fox News (and the other big media) to task for what they see as attempts to marginalize their candidate. Now, this post isn't about Ron Paul per se, but rather the Internet has changed the dynamics of public political discourse.

Immediately after the second round of debates on Fox news, the network held a text message straw poll, which Ron Paul won by 33%. Hannity and Combs immediately dismissed the results as skewed, joking that Ron Paul fanboys were repeatedly speed dialing and stuffing the ballot box.

In the pre-Internet days, the general public's impression of the debate and its outcome would have relied on two basic sources of information:

  1. Viewing the debate itself (something only a minority of people ever do)
  2. Relying on news reports and analysis in the days following the event for a summary recap and highlights.

And if a candidate's supporters cried "Fowl!" then it would be their obviously biased word against the soundbites playing on air.

Now, however, those supporters can do more than just complain. Paul supporters have outlined their mistreatment of their candidate -- and supported their arguments with video from the debate illustrating their points.

Without any evidence, a claim that the moderator deliberately mocked one candidate while fawning over another sounds like sour grapes. When one produces the video documenting the behavior, the case becomes more compelling.

Fox News claimed their poll results were skewed by a minority voting repeatedly. Paul supporters supply images and video documenting their assertion that repeat voting was impossible, and therefore the results are valid.



The important point here isn't what happened at the debate. It's that you can view the evidence (here's but one source) and judge for yourself. You don't have to rely on either the soundbites of the mainstream media, nor the claims of a candidates supporters. The information sources are being made freely available for you to examine and decide.

This is one of the real strengths of the Internet.

In order to access all of this information, though, you have to be online.

And that's the real weakness of the Internet.

Folks who never go online will form their opinions as they have in the past, relying on the two options mentioned above. And those within the digital subdivision who only marginally use the Internet (the ones just use email to forward jokes and urban legends) will be completely oblivious to this as well.

If you're on the right side of the digital subdivision, the source information's pretty easy to find.

If you're not, then somebody else will report and decide for you.

- Ralph



Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another Angle for the CNR - Block Programming

The Hook's article about WCNR (and it's impact on WNRN) has sparked a lively debate. The discussion's spilled over into the Cvillenews.com (who were kind enough to site my recent post on the subject).

Something mentioned in their comments needs some clarification, I think. Lonnie said:
My big issue with WTJU is that you basically need a program guide to find what you want to listen to. It has it’s place and I’m glad its there, but it’s way to diverse and eclectic for me. Sometimes it’s nice to just turn on the radio and know it’ll be something you will probably want to hear.
A station with more than one format can be confusing to potential listeners.
WNRN calls out the weakness of WTJU's eclectic format on the WNRN site
Stations like WNRN & WVTF ("public radio") offer variety not found with commercial radio, but enough consistency so that real, defined audiences develop for their programming. Some so-called "college" stations have underwriting programs so that businesses or individuals can express their support for a particular kind of eccentric programming for a couple of hours a week.
While this was true years ago, WTJU has (mostly) moved to block programming -- something that's fairly standard in non-commercial radio. With block programming, the format changes at certain times, creating "blocks" of uniform programming across the week.

Most public radio stations (such as WMRA and WVTF locally) follow the news/classical block programming format. "Morning Edition" in the morning; classical music middays; "All Things Considered" in the late afternoon. Evenings can be more of a grab bag, and weekends usually bring in completely different programming ("This American Life" Prairie Home Companion"), but that's OK. Listening habits are different for nights and weekends.

As long as consistency is maintained throughout the work week, the audience -- which can change from one format to another -- can tune in at the same time as part of their weekday routine and get the programming they expect to hear.

WNRN's oblique criticism of WTJU is little disingenuous as they too use block programming for somewhat eclectic programming. "Acoustic Sunrise" which runs from 5:30-10 Monday through Friday has markedly different music than what's aired throughout the day. And the urban programming of the Beatbox (10PM-Midnight) shares virtually no music with WNRN's morning show (and I suspect little of the same audience).

WTJU used to divide everything into one-hour blocks and fit it all together like a giant puzzle. A decade ago you could have heard an hour of folk music followed by an hour of alt-rock followed by an hour of jazz. The volunteer staff naively believed the listener would memorize the specific time slots their programs were on and tune in accordingly. This ignored the way people listen to the radio, and the station suffered as a result.

Currently, the station uses programming blocks for most of its weekday schedule. Every Monday through Friday, from 6-10 in the morning, we air classical music and from 10-12 jazz.

Of course, the key to block programming is consistency. Weekends can be different, but most folks expect if they turn on a station at a certain time throughout the week, they'll hear the same kind of programming.

Where WTJU current falls down is in the latter part of the week. Ideally, the folk department programming (blues/folk/world) should run from noon-2PM, and rock from 2-4PM every weekday. It starts out that way, but on Friday the rock and folk blocks are reversed -- and that makes for bad radio, as listeners are forced to remember an exception to the rule.

The schedule isn't perfect, but it's far better than it was. And the evenings are finally arranged in blocks (mostly) as well.

But those few weekday anomalies -- legacies from a bygone era -- aren't quite the "particular kind of eccentric programming for a couple of hours a week" some would have us believe.

As with other stations using block programming for their weekdays, the majority of WTJU programming you like will be there at that same time period, Monday through Friday. So, Lonnie, same time tomorrow?

- Ralph

The Trouble with Tribler

Yesterday a fascinating concept was proposed by the founders of Tribler, a P2P site based in the Netherlands. They propose to turn bandwidth use into a form of currency for their participants. Since the network doesn't have centralised servers, it depends on each member to not just suck up bandwidth by downloading, but to contribute to the system by allowing uploads as well.

Under the new system, Tribler subscribers would "spend" credits when they downloaded, and "earn" credits when they uploaded, rewarding good netizen behavior. Dutch TV is taking a hard look at Tribler's proposal, believing it to be the way to distribute television over the Internet without overburdening the system.

Now here's the problem. It's a peer-to-peer network. To Hollywood and American television studios, P2P -- especially BitTorrent -- is the Great Satan. P2P equals file sharing equals lost revenue.

Never mind that the equation is flawed -- look for objections and obstructions to start flying fast and furiously. And don't be surprised if our government isn't called in to act. It was the MPAA, after all, behind America's strong arming of Sweden to raid Pirate Bay's servers. The raid was contrary to Swedish law, took many legitimate businesses offline, cost millions in lost revenues from said businesses, and did absolutely nothing to stop Pirate Bay. But it did damage the relationship between Sweden and America.

EFF's proposal (that I discussed last time) makes even more sense now. If we had an Internet licensing fund that proportionally paid content providers for download traffic, studios would be embracing Tribler (and other P2P sites) rather than trying to quash them. The more a program circulated, the larger the royalty payment -- and the end users get to do what they're going to do anyway.

The trouble with Tribler? Rationally speaking, none. But since when have rational decisions been made in Hollywood?

- Ralph