Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Californian churches hate freedom

An unfortunate article secreted by my RSS feed today is about how 1 million Californian Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus are planning to protest in support of Proposition 8, which would repeal the legalization of gay marriage.

According to Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church, "if Proposition 8 fails, there is an inevitable loss of religious freedom."

What I don't understand is the notion that someone's religious freedom has been diminished by allowing gay marriage. Sure, if gay marriage were outlawed then one thing we can all agree on is that someone's right has been taken away. Whether or not this is a good thing is what's open for debate, but what nobody can deny is that gay people have had a right - the right to marriage - repealed.

On the other hand, if gay marriage is legal then how is religious freedom lost? Religious folks can still get married and church clergy can still refuse to perform certain wedding ceremonies on an individual level (such as Catholic priests being allowed to refuse performing marriage for divorced people, even though divorce is legal), so exactly what right is no longer there?

Maybe I'm just being thick, so perhaps someone can explain to me how this is not a ridiculous hypocrisy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You'll go to Hell...

For what your dirty mind is thinking.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flickr, Creative Commons, and an analogy involving enemas

Sidney Crosby (Creative Commons Retouch from Vanluven), originally uploaded by DarthLen.

Online photo sharing site Flickr (as if there's anyone who doesn't know what it is) allows you to apply a Creative Commons license to any pictures you've uploaded. Obviously I'm more than happy about this as I've been a Creative Commons fan for some time based on my belief that traditional copyright laws are fundamentally flawed, but it does raise an interesting issue.

Flickr lets you choose a default license for any work which you upload, and also lets you change the copyright license for any given image at a later stage. So you upload some pictures from your holiday in Micronesia that get a traditional copyright applied to them by default, which you can then - if you wish - change to a less restrictive CC license at a later stage. This seems awfully convenient - and it is - but the point I'm trying to get at lies in the ability Flickr users have to change which license gets applied by default.

If you're a progressive-minded person and you decide that the majority of pictures you'll upload to your Flickr account will be under, say, a Creative Commons Attribution license, you'll decide it's far more convenient to change your default license to that and save yourself some effort in the long run. Big fucking deal, right? Well, actually yes. See, Creative Commons allows you to relicense your work at any time you want as long as you license it under a less restrictive license. So if you have a picture of your pug Larry under a CC Attribution NonCommercial Share Alike license, you are free to change that later on to an Attribution Share Alike license, which is less restrictive, but not an Attribution No Derivative Works license which is more restrictive and thus incompatible with your original license; at least not without a convoluted mess of legal headaches. In Creative Commons' own words:

"Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable. This means that you cannot stop someone, who has obtained your work under a Creative Commons license, from using the work according to that license."

Obviously this is to prevent you from fucking over (either accidentally or otherwise) parties who have already made use of your CC licensed work under the originally specified terms, by taking away rights you've already agreed to give them.

I have no doubt that Flickr added this option to make the lives of its users a bit easier, but in the process gave all of us the legal equivalent of a broken-glass encrusted enema with a bullet-shaped tip for easy insertion.

So what do I recommend? What I do is to leave my default license to standard copyright. Sure this leads to a bit of extra work whenever you upload images you wish to have under a Creative Commons license (it's hard work having to perform two extra clicks, you know), but at least you won't be violating CC relicensing terms, screwing anyone who wants to use your work, nor getting screwed by them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Dark Knight, IMDB, Digg, and a lot of presumption

This post saw its genesis in the form of a particularly indignant comment and follow-up comment I left in a Digg thread about an inflammatory /Film article discussing The Dark Knight's drop in the IMDB rankings from #1 to #3, accusing fans of The Dark Knight of having "gamed" the system in order to get their beloved Batman film such a high rank in the first place.

Instead of reinventing the wheel by typing the comments in a more cohesive form here, I'll just post them in their entirety. Here goes:

Digger "spepin" provoked with this opening salvo of total logical meltdown:
As good as The Dark Knight was, there was absolutely no way it was better than a good portion of those movies.

The fanboys tried, succeeded for a while but alas, they couldn't keep it forever.

Good to see Shawshank Redemption up there, in my opinion that's the best film created...

I had to give him points for rating The Shawshank Redemption so highly. Anyway, I replied:
Is it really a fanboy thing, though?

I saw the film, loved it, gave it a ten and moved on with my life. Does that make me part of some fanboy-brigade?

Maybe the movie just happens to be well-loved by the same demographic that happens to form the majority of regular IMDB voters. In lieu of any evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe that over some lame, pointless, carefully orchestrated conspiracy to get the movie to IMDB's number 1 spot.

"Good to see Shawshank Redemption up there, in my opinion that's the best film created... "

I agree that The Shawshank Redemption is an excellent film, but what it comes down to - as you point out - is opinion. If a person sincerely loves a film then I don't see them as being wrong in giving it a 10. Similarly, I see nothing wrong with someone giving a film a 0 if they *sincerely* see no redeeming qualities in it. IMDB isn't a competition to see who can give the most informed rating, it's an aggregate of popular opinion.

Just because a movie you didn't like as much as another ended up rating higher doesn't mean it's the fault of some insidious plot.

To which a fellow Digger with the chick-magnet net handle "dan222555" replied:
When you give the movie a 10 you're saying no better movie has ever been made. If you believe that (which would by all accounts be absurd), then fine give it a 10. If you don't believe that and you're giving it a 10 then your compromising the integrity of the rating system and you are just a part of some fanboy brigade.

I really had to reach for my A-game to counter such a deft riposte. Thus:
That's exactly my argument, though. Rating a movie (at least on IMDB) is a subjective thing. It's not meant to be a clinical evaluation of the movie's merits, but an aggregate of popular opinion. As soon as you try to turn it into a science, you're implying that you're in a position of knowing enough about cinema to evaluate a film fairly and completely. Maybe you do. For all I know you are a professional filmmaker or critic. I don't, though, so I can only rate a film according to what little I know about the movie making process and - most importantly - according to how much I enjoy it. If IMDB only wanted a movie to be rated according to professional criteria, then their fundamental mistake was allowing anybody other than professional critics to rate films. But then again, that's what Rotten Tomatoes is for, isn't it?

The other issue I have is that people tend to dictate how you're supposed to rate movie on IMDB. I've given a number of films 10. Films that I honestly enjoyed immensely. I take exception to being accused of fanboyism, diminishing the system, etc. purely because the way I choose to rate films disagrees with your personal views on what - I remind you - is a public site.

"When you give the movie a 10 you're saying no better movie has ever been made."

If I extend that line of reasoning, we reach a point where we can award NO movie a 10. The reason for this is because we can't be sure if a better film will one day be made. If I wanted to rate The Exorcist (a personal favourite) as a 10, I'd have to stop myself and ask: "What if a better film exists that I haven't yet seen? What if five years from now a better film is released? Surely if this happens the integrity of the rating system will be diminished if I rate a 10 now!" I don't think IMDB would have given us the option to rate a film a 10 or a 0 if we weren't logically allowed to use it. And I'd rather be told when and how to use those ratings by IMDB than by indignant strangers on the Internet.

When I personally give a film a 10 I'm not implying that no better movie has been made. I don't see myself as being knowledgeable enough about films to say that one is objectively better than another. I am, however, saying that I have not enjoyed another film more. It's easy for me to say that I enjoyed The Godfather, The Dark Knight and The Shining all equally, albeit in different ways, but none ever better. Therefore, I rate it a 10.
This final quote sums up pretty much everything I feel about the topic - albeit in a painfully long-winded way. Unless IMDB (or any other movie rating site, for that matter) specifically changes their rules to enforce a particular rating style on its users, I'm going to keep rating films based on how much I enjoyed them and not on how highly my peers tell me I need to regard it. Or how "genre defining" the script is. Or how "subtextual" the acting is.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mist over Pietermaritzburg

Mist over Pietermaritzburg, originally uploaded by andrewmurray.

As you value your life or your reason keep away from the moor.

They all agreed that it was a huge creature, luminous, ghastly, and spectral. I have cross-examined these men, one of them a hard-headed countryman, one a farrier, and one a moorland farmer, who all tell the same story of this dreadful apparition, exactly corresponding to the hell-hound of the legend. I assure you that there is a reign of terror in the district, and that it is a hardy man who will cross the moor at night.