October 9th, 2010

Moe Cowbell

Imagine That There's Sense To It All

I want to write a little bit about John Lennon.

And I don't know why.

You have to keep in mind, my knowledge of Beatles lore in general and John Lennon in particular is sketchy at best.  Growing up, I was into New Wave, and when that started dying out in favor of the Rise Of Glam Rock, I switched to r&b and jazz.  I simply never had a firm grounding in rock music in general.  As a result, while I can appreciate, say, Elvis Pressley, the godlike status which he is afforded stupefies me.

Part of it may be how lopsided success is in any creative field.  There are bands that I love, respect, and admire that never catch a break, their members languishing in obscurity.  They make great stuff, the crowds love them once they hear them, but they never get anywhere.  And there are plenty more where that are rewarded with disproportionate success who act with entitlement.  I didn't understand the reverance Michael Jackson was afforded after he died.  Everyone talked about a great talent that had been snuffed out (to my mind, he was a great talent only with the right producer.  He was great in the Jackson 5 days, and what made Thriller so great was Quincy Jones' sensibilities.  Jackson producing his own stuff was unfocused and lacked polish) afterwards.  A few days before, these same people would have been taking cheap shots at him for his alledged flings with boys or his odd behavior.  Jim Morrison was an alcoholic moron who managed to die before his act wore thin.  Mariah Carrey will stop shows so someone can bring her a drink or fluff her hair on stage in the middle of a number, or recently adjust her footwear.  She said, "Everyone calls me a diva, I might as well act like one."  Uh, that's a good reason to NOT act like a diva.  I loved her first two albums, but after she started acting like that, I couldn't listen to them anymore, I was too aware of the person behind them.  One of my favorite examples was how members of Hepcat (traditional ska band) drove themselves to their shows, barely sold records, and had been together for years but no one except us rudies heard of them.  Meanwhile, ABC manufactures the boy band O Town and they get tours, TV spots, appearances on soundtracks, etc.  The Monkees may have been called the Pre-Fab Four, but that at least they had talent and actually recorded good music.

Lennon was a puzzle.  My understanding (once again, Beatles Lore is not my strong suit) is that, in the early days, he and McCartney had different approaches and you could tell who did what.  As the Beatles grew, the differences became more apparent.  McCartney leaned towards things that were supposed to be refined and elegant, although they didn't always work out that way (Maxwell's Silver Hammer, a song I still can't listen to without my head quirking and going, "...wat?").  Lennon, on the other hand, seemed to be known for a more cynical view.  It's certainly reflected in the actual music they created.

Perhaps this is part of the Lennon mystique.  Lennon had a worldly view.  He was aware of how things were and how things don't work out.  The controversy over his, "We're more popular than Jesus," is a good example.  The quote was taken out of context, Lennon was making a point about how transitory fame was.  But this one line was focused on and twisted into arrogance instead of reflection.  (Ironically, McCartney said, "Somebody said to me, 'But the Beatles were anti-materialistic.'  That's a huge myth.  John and I literally used to sit down and say, 'Now, let's write a swimming pool.'")  Lennon seemed to be searching for something.  Something that he felt the world was set up to provide, but somehow wasn't.  McCartney continued to make music, but it was more general and adult contemp friendly (much as I love "Band On The Run," bits like "Silly Love Songs" just seem radio friendly, not like music to actually seek out).  Lennon was still trying to sort out the world.  What is generally agreed to be his best song, "Imagine", as a prayer and an aspiration, with an undercurrent of sadness that the only way to experience this vision is in dreams instead of finding it in the real world.

Lennon's search only ended because of a gunshot.  I say that because I'm not sure, even if he'd lived, if he would have found the answers to life, the universe, and everything.  Not much of a Lennon fan.  But if what we create truly is a reflection of what we are, Lennon was a lot like us -- aware of the imperfections of life and powerless to do anything about it.  Given the reverence he is held with, he's probably further devestated by the irony now.
Bill Nye

Count Three And Pray

Good morning, Jane Lynch.

I am a huge fan of yours, starting from when I first noticed you in Best In Show.  I knew right then and there you were an expert improv player (not just anyone gets into the Christopher Guest Stock Company.  Not even Jamie Lee Curtis, who has comedy chops AND is married to the guy, is there).  I followed you on LoveSpring International, your turn on Thank God You're Here was aces...I admit, I haven't watched a single episode of Glee, I'm more interested in how you handle off the cuff stuff.  One of my dream match-ups will always be you and Ryan Stiles.

I bring up your comedy background and improv skills because I see you are hosting Saturday Night Live tonight.  SNL used to be awesome.  Then, hosting the show became a sign that you'd made it to the Big Time, not that you had talent but not a mainstream following.  In the ensuing years, there have been a bunch of flash-in-the-pan hosts.  The names read like a chronicle of who was popular, but not what they were popular for.  Elle Macpherson hosted.  Kayne West hosted (a year after he slammed them for making fun of him for the Taylor Swift debacle.  Amazing what you will do when your career is in the toilet).  Personally, I think the worst was when Paris Hilton hosted.  That wasn't just the nadir, that was the Challenger Deep of the show.  It's one thing for jokes to bomb.  It's another when it's just not funny.  And it's even worse when everyone is acting like it is anyway.

SNL needs help.  You know your shit.  So please, for the love of God, when you're on the show, PLEASE TEACH THE SNL CAST A THING OR TWO ABOUT BEING FUNNY!  Think of it as keeping America beautiful.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

In January of 2002, the browser wars were dominated by M$' Internet Exploder.  85.8% of browser use came from it.  M$ couldn't make a product that competed with Netscape, and Netscape was gaining traction as an application platform, shifting power away from M$.  So they gave IE away for free and tied it into their operating system.  Netscape couldn't keep up, and decided to go open source.  Giving it away for free was the only way to compete.

At the tail end of 2004, the Mozilla Foundation released Firefox.  A truly revolutionary browser that showed the beauty of open source, Firefox was focused on end users instead of M$.  ActiveX did not run by default, making it far more secure right out of the gate.  It also had XUL, the XML User Interface Language for creating new themes and features.  It baked in support for open source codecs like Ogg Vorbis and Theora.  Firefox still has some problems, like with memory leaks and the open socket exploit that has taken down entire IRC nodes.  But that's nothing compared to the bullshit of IE.

In September 2009, Google released its Chrome browser.  It's trying to marry the best of open source (adaptability, rapid integration, no bloat or spyware) with the best of Netscape before M$ slaughtered them.  It has gained rapid acceptance.  It's initial share of the browser environment was 3.69%.  After only a year, it is at 11.54%.  Some of that came from Firefox, some of that came from IE.

Obviously, the new browser stats are out today.  It is official.  IE is at 49.8%.

For the first time in ages, IE is below 50% usage.

It's not all open source.  Safari and Opera continue to pull in their marks.  But the fact is, IE is losing its dominance.

For years, M$ insisted that IE6 was just fine.  After Firefox started eroding their share, they released IE7 and IE8.  However, each of these were only incremental improvements, making them equal with FF at the time (remember when IE came up with tabbed browsing?).  FF continued to adapt and expand.  Meanwhile, Chrome brags about how fast it is.  As I don't go online under Windows, I have no way to verify this (the Linux and Mac versions, which I could try, I haven't bothered with, as they are usually a version or two behind).  Everyone seems sold on it.  Then again, people like me fell for "blast processing", too.

M$ is getting IE9 ready for release and is hoping it will reverse their fortunes.  After all, when 7 and 8 were released, there was a spike and they reclaimed some market share.  They promptly lost it again, but they got some interest.  But there's a problem -- 9 is engineered only for Fista and 7, not XP.  And XP is currently 60% of the Windows market.  And by the time people finally move on, FF and Chrome will have even more marketshare sewn up.

Office is losing out to OOo (and now, LibreOffice).  IE is losing to other browsers, both free and proprietary.  Linux and Mac have a little of 10% of home computers each.  Android and the iPhone are reducing the improvements to Mobile 7 to an afterthought.  The iPad and the upcoming Adam tablets will never be overtaken.  The Zune continues to lose to the iPod and just basic music players.

M$ will soon have to face what it has denied -- people just don't want their products.

Oh, I Forgot! Libre Office!

When Oracle sued Google over Java implementation in Android, devs went from angry to goddamn pissed off.  People abandoned Java in favor of Python or simply making web apps with HTML5.  Through it all, people like me wondered, what about OpenOffice.org?  It is now part of Oracle, after all.  OOo has become a great productivity suite.  It is licensed under the LGPL.  The key difference between the LGPL and the GPL is, under the right circumstances, you can release things based on it under your own license, as long as it doesn't bake in the code you are using (linking instead of compiling).  You can still modify it, but if you directly use the code, you must GPL or LGPL it.

Well, within days of the Google lawsuit, this was taken advantage of.  LibreOffice is a new community set up.  They are taking the code for OOo and forking it.  And there's not a goddamn thing Oracle can do.  If they decide to take OOo private, they can only do it from this point on, all the previous code is still out there and can be used.

LibreOffice already has a beta out.  It's an RPM package, but they tell you how to convert it to a .deb if you run with that sort of crowd.  They are already taking the best of all the other OOo forks.  While this includes Novell's work, they are also running it past the Free Software Foundation.  They want a truly free office suite, so anything Novell has done under its patent swap deal with M$ is not going in there.  But improvements to efficiency and that?  Fair game under the GPL Novell licenses it under.  There are already teams set up to make Win and Mac versions, and they are using the Linux code as the base.  That means you won't need a bloated Java interpreter to make it work.  Hee hee.

Oracle welcomed the creation and talked about how great open source is (in other words, they realize saying anything bad after the Google lawsuit is just thwacking the bee hive).  Thanks to the GPL, Oracle can't threaten LibreOffice with a patent suit.  They can try trademark, but LibreOffice is making sure they don't infringe that thanks to the FSF.

What's that?  What about M$?  Good question.  M$ ginned up a deal with Sun way back when that indemnified StarOffice (the pay version of OOo) from patent infringement, but reserved the right to sue OOo users for patent infringement.  Guess what?  Doesn't mean dick.  LibreOffice is headquartered in Germany, WHERE THEY DON'T HAVE SOFTWARE PATENTS!  M$ has no basis to sue.  Take that, ya bastards!

It's a beautiful morning.....