Thursday, June 30, 2005

It’s Got a Good Beat, I Can Dance to It … Sure, I’d Steal It

In my last entry, I mentioned “the whole musical piracy epidemic” and promised that I would post more about it. That time is now.

I suppose it is because of digital media that this supposed crisis exists. After all, fifteen years ago it was common enough to steal copy a friend’s cassette onto another tape. I’m sure the music industry was opposed to this, but there certainly wasn’t a sense of urgency. But I guess it’s become a little too convenient nowadays. Computers have enabled us to not only copy music at an incredible rate with relatively flawless quality, but, thanks to Al Gore’s invention of the Internet, to distribute this copied music all over the world in a matter of seconds. FBI warnings against the illegal copying of music now appear on CD’s with the same regularity as Surgeon General warnings on cigarette packages. Can “stealing” music in today's world really be justified?

I think so, and here’s why. A lot of music is out of print or otherwise unobtainable. At one time, I had a collection of rare, unreleased material by some of my favorite bands. When it comes down to it, I suppose this collection was illegal. But in what way was I hurting the industry? This wasn’t music I was refusing to pay for. I couldn’t pay for it. It simply wasn’t an option. I could either possess the music illegally, or I could never listen to it again. Either way, neither the band nor the record label was going to be getting any money out of me. So why not let me enjoy the music?

Similarly, there is music I enjoy but don’t consider worth the cost of a CD. Now, maybe you’re thinking this is obviously what all music piracy consists of. But I think there is a difference. I think some people don’t want to pay for any music they don’t have to. That certainly isn’t the case with me. I’ve purchased plenty of CD’s I could have “obtained” otherwise. But the fact is, when I consider a CD worth purchasing, I do so. Believe it or not, I want to support the music I enjoy. And when I like an artist enough, I want to own the actual CD, complete with the booklet, rather than a permanent marker replica in a plain, clear case. It’s worth it to me. Still, the fact remains that there are plenty of songs I would enjoy listening to but would never pay for. If it’s absolutely true that I would not purchase this music, then I am not hurting either the record company or the individual artist by “owning” it illegally. And if John Doe sincerely wouldn’t pay for the thousands of CD’s he has on his computer—even if that were his only option—then I don’t think he’s hurting anyone by “stealing,” either.

It would be a much different scenario if people were stealing physical CD’s out of record stores. It would be much different if people would purchase a CD to obtain the music, but choose not to because it is available for “free.” As it is, the digital music revolution now makes many individual songs available via the Internet for just $.99. This means one needn’t spend $15 to legitimately acquire one or two songs from a CD. This fact puts a greater burden on those of us who claim many songs aren’t worth purchasing (even when these songs are available as “singles” that retail for around $4 or $5).

It seems to me that the spirit of the law regarding musical piracy is not to hurt the artists and record companies that make such music available. I can wholly agree with this principle, but not every instance of “piracy” is of this nature. It’s a bit frustrating when, as recently happened to me, a CD is purchased and cannot be played on your computer without installing a program particular to that disc, all in the name of discouraging piracy. The only decent means I have of listening to a CD in my apartment is via my computer. But I don’t want to have to install programs just to listen (and not even rip)! It’s a shame so many people take advantage of whatever they can. Now the rest of us have to suffer. But I guess this is the way things have always been. It’s the same old song…

Friday, June 24, 2005

Potpourri No. 5

  • My mystery leg ailment has suddenly reappeared. While it’s not as bad as it was before, it certainly isn’t enjoyable. It pretty much disappeared for a month or two, but just as suddenly as it showed up the first time, it’s back. This time around, I went to a doctor—er, make that a physician’s assistant. Anyway, he told me it’s due to inactivity. Yowzers! I don’t know whether to buy into this or not. True, since I’ve been out of school, I have pretty much been in my apartment 24-7, but this seems like a strange physiological response. Plus, the first time this hit me, I was going to school every day and walking all over campus, etc. Anyway, trying to be a good boy, I’ve taken to going on short (and rather painful) walks every day. I think my leg might be improving, so perhaps this guy knows what he’s talking about after all. Go figure.
  • I got a few new CD’s recently. Because of the whole musical piracy epidemic, it seems you can get CD’s pretty darn cheap nowadays. CDs are commonly on sale for $9.99 at Best Buy, which is pretty amazing. There’s more I could say about all this, but I think I’ll save that for a post of its own. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out Paul Anka’s Rock Swings. If you have eclectic musical tastes, you’ll get a kick out of his jazzy renditions of songs by Soundgarden, Nirvana, Billy Idol, R.E.M., Van Halen, Oasis, Michael Jackson, and more.
  • I’m plugging away at the hundreds of pages I’ve been assigned to read for my upcoming philosophy conference at the University of Colorado. So far, so laborious. There are 525 pages of printed material that, supposedly, I’m meant to read before going to the conference. That may not sound extreme, but anyone who’s read philosophy knows it is not a quick, light read. Not to mention that most of these articles are printed two-pages to a page (like if you held a book open on a copy machine and printed both pages at once). Thus, those 525 pages are closer to 1,000 pages worth in a book. No, I’m not that excited about it.
  • Should anyone be interested, I wish to reiterate the fact that my other page, Orange Theology, is not exclusively for the religious-minded. Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Agnostics, and everyone else are welcome to participate there. Generally, the topics do not deal strictly with religion, per se. For example, I’ve asked if, when, and why we should vote to put our own moral values into law. Similarly, I’ve asked how far we should go in accommodating practices we may feel morally opposed to (e.g., if you oppose teenage sex, should you still help your daughter get on birth control?). One needn’t utilize religious beliefs to answer these questions. And even when the topic is more overtly religious, I believe anyone can add worthwhile insight. An atheist may wish to tackle the meaning of repentance by addressing what it means to him/her to be truly sorry about something. Similarly, an atheist may have reasons to believe (or disbelieve) that, if God exists, Muslims and Catholics both worship the same being despite their differing systems of belief. The reason I bring this up is because I know several people have never responded to anything written over there, and yet I believe they would have something interesting to contribute. Granted, you’re not obligated to participate, but please don’t skip over it simply because you believe you fall outside of the desired audience.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Holy Annoying Audience, Batman!

Going to the movies always has its potential problems. One of the most common difficulties is getting a good seat. But even if you get a good seat, those sitting near you can wreak havoc on your movie-going experience. Personally, I’m a stickler for getting to the theater early and ensuring I have as much control over the situation as possible. But sometimes there’s just no escaping almost every problem imaginable, as an impromptu Saturday night viewing of Batman Begins quickly proved.

I’ve always pitied those who arrive at the theater just before the movie is about to begin. Being the sympathetic person I am, I find no comfort in the fact that these people have no one to blame but themselves. I still feel bad as, tucked snuggly into my near-perfect seat and already munching away on my popcorn, I watch some cute couple—whether young and sweet and holding hands, or old and adorably wrinkled, it doesn’t make any difference—staring hopelessly and somewhat disillusioned into an unrelenting sea of fanny-packed seats. I always think these people must not go to the movies very often or they would have known better than to arrive at this late moment. But that only makes it worse, because that means this must be a special occasion for them, and now it’s getting ruined. I quickly bury my head into my popcorn, pretend everyone’s happy, and wait for the lights to dim (wretched man that I am, longing for darkness to shelter these people from my view though I know it makes it all the more difficult for them!)

But Saturday I found myself arriving at the movie just minutes before showtime, a particularly bad move considering it was the movie’s first weekend in theaters and an expected blockbuster hit. As it was, my group ended up sitting just three rows from the screen, anything but ideal in this giganto-screen day-and-age. But this was a risk knowingly taken. What I didn’t count on was the odd behavior of those surrounding me. In the very front row was a younger couple with an almost-newborn baby. Did I mention this is an action-heavy flick? And a relatively dark one to boot? What are these people thinking!? Okay, so maybe not everyone can get a babysitter. Maybe people who can’t get babysitters shouldn’t have to stay at home every single week of their lives. But let’s think just a little bit about our baby’s eardrums, shall we? The respective Mom and Dad took turns holding the baby outside the theater during the entire movie. That kind of makes both seeing the movie and going on a date rather pointless, don’t you think? But I don’t know that this was their plan because they waited for Junior to start crying before they left the first time. Were they surprised, I wonder?

Secondly, I was fortunate enough to sit on the end of the row, but the people directly to the right of my party were those enthusiasts who laugh, sigh, and ooh and aah over every cinematic moment. And if that weren’t enough, the man sitting directly behind me began snoring shortly into the film! Yes, literally snoring! Not loud, I-feel-bad-for-his-wife-at-night snoring, but most certainly audible snoring. And this snoring continued off-and-on through a significant portion of the film.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the most ideal experience. There were other things I could whine about, but most didn’t affect me too much (getting the wrong drinks at the concession stand, the no-coverage “nice-to-meet-ya” urinals, the stuffy heat of the theater, etc.). At least the movie itself was very enjoyable. It’s one of the better superhero movies I’ve ever seen, shunning caricature and going for realism, emphasizing drama rather than tantalization. My biggest complaint would be the muddled quality of the action scenes, which were largely incoherent. Still, director/co-writer Christopher Nolan (who brought us the unforgettable film, Memento) keeps things very well-balanced between comedy, drama, and action, and between characterization and spectacle. I highly recommend it. Just get to the theater early.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Not-So-Current Affairs

My sister recently wrote a post on her blog asking how much of our life history should be disclosed to a significant other (click here to see her post). It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit in the past, and I’ve always thought I’d desire full disclosure. I’ve always figured that, if I love someone, why wouldn’t I want to share everything with her? TV and the movies would have us believe this is a rare perspective to have, but I’ve never seen an unselfish reason to intentionally hide something.

While my sister was not (to my knowledge) talking about previous relationships, nor about things that took place during the relationship, I think these are easy examples to utilize. And thus I want to probe the idea of affairs. While it’s a dreadful thing to contemplate, I’ve wondered what I’d feel if my one-day spouse were to have an affair. Absolutely horrible, I imagine. But now let’s think of a different scenario. Imagine a husband and wife that are extremely happy in their marriage. Now imagine that 10 years ago, one of these individuals had an affair and their partner never knew about it. Should they tell their spouse about it now?

Now many things might affect your answer. Maybe the extent of the affair matters to you. But let’s just say it was significant enough. Now imagine that the person who cheated feels nothing but remorse for those previous actions. Imagine that the cheater feels completely disgusted at the idea of ever cheating again. Imagine, whatever it takes, that this person is as truly sorry and regretful as they can be. Is there a reason to tell their spouse?

It seems that doing so would cause nothing but destruction. It won’t change the fact that the affair happened. Because the cheater already feels horrible about it, it won’t really make them feel any less guilty. It will only make them feel awful because of the current anguish they are bringing upon their spouse. And the spouse will have to suffer and mourn and, most likely, think about this fact constantly for the next several weeks or even months (and it probably won't EVER stop coming to mind occasionally). So what's the point?

I used to think that, as the victim, I would deserve to know. But is this simply an inability to forgive? Would the more forgiving person not need to know? Sadly, an affair shouldn’t have happened. And, if it did, the cheater should have been forthright about it at the time. But once it’s too late to change that, is there a point to admitting it? That should probably be up to the victim. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know ahead of time if the victim would really want to know. Assuming everything was wonderful in the relationship now, I don’t know that I’d want to go through that pain for nothing. What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Foul Play

Last night I went to my first baseball game of the season. I’m not a big sports fan, but I can’t let summer pass without going to at least one or two games. It’s a summer tradition. Admittedly, I rarely get that caught up in the game itself, but it feels good being there. Or at least it feels good up until you visit the concession stand. What a rip! And never has the quality of concessions (which were never that wonderful to begin with) been so shoddy.

But I digress. I have devised an online quiz regarding my baseball experience. The mission here is twofold. For starters, I am providing a fun and interactive way for you to learn about my game-going experience. Secondly, I am introducing you to the fun world that is This website allows you to make quizzes, crossword puzzles, word searches, mazes, and more—and it’s all for free! Though you could certainly use it for more sincere educational purposes, I think it’s great for just goofing around. And so it is that I now present to you:

Benny K’s Baseball Game Quiz

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Okay, Here's a Game for Cat Lovers

To keep things fair, I thought I should present this game for cat lovers. Don't worry -- it's so squeaky clean, it'll make you sick. It's called Cat Town, and it may just be the worst game I have ever encountered. It takes less time to win the game than it does to get through the introduction! And if it weren't for the long tail, I'd probably think the hero cat was a dog. Once again, I credit Little Fluffy Industries for subjecting introducing the general public to this "game."

At least the pictures are cute...

Play Cat Town now!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Games for Dog Lovers

Because it’s always good to keep a few time-wasters tucked away in the old Favorites folder, I now present two essentially worthless games available free over the Internet.

The first game is Kitty Cannon. The object of the game, if you haven’t already guessed, is to launch a cat as far as possible by shooting it out of a cannon. You gain distance by bouncing the feline off of trampolines and exploding it with dynamite and so forth; your distance is deterred by carnivorous plants and randomly placed spikes. Actually, because everything is randomly placed, this is essentially a game of luck. There is no skill involved, but I found it rather addicting nonetheless. My best score is currently 1,213 yards. Should you beat that, go ahead and post it in my comments section and I will bestow upon you (what some may describe as) a prize.

Game number two is MMEOWW! Plague of Kittens. In this game, it is raining cats and…well, more cats, and it is up to you to prevent their deaths as they plummet to the ground. But there is a dilemma. Kittens that are safely helped to the ground will eventually credit you with more lives (and thus a longer game), but the big points—and big thrills—come from bouncing the cats as high into the air as possible and getting them to somersault. Hmmm. It’s a true ethical dilemma (a rather utilitarian one, methinks). The fact that this game actually requires some skill is probably its biggest deterrent. One must limit the fun he/she has with the kitties in order to prolong the experience, and vice versa. What a quandary!

Kudos to Little Fluffy Industries for sharing these games with the general public. Many more games can be found at their site, but be forewarned that many of them contain questionable material. There are logos under each game warning you of any offensive content that may be present, so you shouldn’t stumble upon anything by accident. That being said, I should warn you that the two games I mentioned above are rather bloody. Of course, I assume you realized that from their very descriptions, but if not, at least the cat’s out of the bag.

Ha ha.

Monday, June 06, 2005


I have recurring dreams about traveling. Initially, this may seem a very positive thing. After all, why not take a semi-literal cerebral vacation every night? In my dreams, I have gone to Seattle, New York, Colorado, and even overseas. Unfortunately, these dreams are almost always disturbing. As far as I can remember, they always involve getting stuck or not knowing where I’m going. They are anxiety-ridden and stressful.

The most common culprit is the freeway. It is common for me to dream that I get on the wrong interstate and have no idea where I’m going. I’m always terrified that I won’t have the chance to exit until I am far, far, far from where I want to be. Unlike my waking hours, I am incapable of realizing that, since I am typically starting out in a major city, there will probably be an exit every few blocks. I also fail to realize that, no matter when I exit, chances are an on-ramp will be readily available to take me back in the direction from which I came. But these are dreams—nightmares—and such logic is denied me.

It doesn’t take much to read into these dreams. Do they represent an inherent fear of change? Of venturing into uncharted territories? Of ending up somewhere I don’t really want to be, but being stuck with it? This sounds reasonable enough, even though I don’t immediately identify with such worries. I suppose most people deal with these fears to some degree. As to why I’m plagued with dreams of this sort on such a regular basis, I don’t know. I think my upcoming conference in Colorado is fueling a recent resurgence. One recent dream specifically involved the conference. I realized, once I was there, that I had forgotten to pack any clothes for my three-week trip (though, luckily, I was not naked or anything). I also missed half of my classes because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be going on the University of Colorado campus. It was a freeway-free dream, but the overarching elements were the same. I woke up hating the idea that I am going. But I’ll get over it.

Oh, the days of yore. Before I ever had a driver’s license, I would dream about driving and it was always exhilarating. Now it is a dismal experience. Sometimes growing up isn’t quite the experience we had hoped for…

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Splitting Hairs

I hate getting haircuts. I know this sounds incredibly lazy, but I hate it. I always end up with semi-long hair simply because I do everything I can to avoid getting a haircut. For starters, it’s boring. And it’s boredom that costs money. Those aren’t the most inviting characteristics for an activity to possess. Moreover, I hate making small talk. I don’t consider myself a shy person, per se, but if I don’t know someone, it’s pretty much guaranteed that my brain isn’t going to think of anything to say to them. And I don’t know if hairdressers are trying to put the customer at ease or just trying to keep themselves entertained, but they sure make you feel obligated to say something interesting.

Regardless, I finally got a haircut yesterday. It’s been quite a while and I admit that I’m glad to have it done. But it was a dreadful experience. My hairdresser asked question after question, and I couldn’t help but answer every one of them with an awkwardly non-existent enthusiasm. Here’s a pretty fair approximation of what took place:

Hairdresser: So, what did you do for Memorial Day weekend?
Me: Um, nothing really. Just visited with family.
Hairdresser: Oh yeah? Where do you live?
Me: Um, by the University.
Hairdresser: Hmm. So, what are you studying at school?
Me: Um, well…knowing full well that what I’ve studied in school doesn’t mean anything to most people but realizing that I have nothing else to say, I go for the gusto…I just got a philosophy degree and now I’m studying ancient languages, like ancient Greek and Latin.
Hairdresser: Oh. What are you going to do with that???
Me: Um, hopefully go to graduate school and then teach it. That’s pretty much all you can do with it, I guess.
Hairdresser: Wow, what can you do with that kind of degree if you don’t become a teacher?
Me: Um, good question…trying to think of something more to say than I just said…a lot of people do a philosophy degree before going to law school.
Hairdresser: So is that what you’re going to do? Go to law school?
Me: Um, no. Not really.
Hairdresser: So what are you doing all the way out here in this neighborhood?
Me: Um, I’m just out here visiting my girlfriend.
Hairdresser: Oh, does she live by you?
Me: Um, no…she lives just up the street. (Hence the reason for my being out in this neighborhood, as I just stated!)
Hairdresser: Oh. Is that your girlfriend over there?
Me: Um, yup, that’s her.
Hairdresser: So is your girlfriend happy you’re getting your haircut?
Me: Um, I guess so. She’s nice about it and all, but I think she’ll be happy.
Hairdresser: How long has it been since you’ve had a haircut?
Me: Um, I don’t even know. You probably know better than me…trying to think of something more substantial to say and finally making something up that may or may not be accurate…six months, maybe?
Hairdresser: Probably. Men’s hair grows so much faster than women’s! It would take a woman a year to grow hair this long.
Me: (Polite laughter)
Hairdresser: Can you look down for a moment?
Me: No problem.
Hairdresser: (After a brief moment of silence, she hums along with the radio)
Me: (Silently not humming)

Anyway, that’s about it. I suppose I’m all spiffy and upright looking now, so that’s good. But I’m glad to know it’s over, at least for another few months. Given my genetic predisposition to balding early in life, I guess I should be grateful I even need haircuts. My brother was much balder at 21 than I am at 26 (thanks, Grandpa!) But I suppose that’s another blog for another time. If you’ve been bored by this post, I’m not sorry, I’m sorry to say. After all, that’s what this post was all about. For something more interesting, head over to In the Key of Orange and get in on my newest survey. See you soon.