Anna Gregoline | July 22, 2004
Write an open letter!

Dear Apartment:

Please stop being difficult. We do not appreciate you letting burglars in, dripping water from the ceiling in the bathroom, stopping up drains, or proliferating large creepy bugs. Also, please tell the management company to stop taking our rent out unpredicably, as we do not want another check to bounce.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Your Inhabitants

Melissa Erin | July 23, 2004
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Jackie Mason | July 23, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | July 27, 2004
Dear People On the Sidewalk,

Please learn how to walk.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Me

Melissa Erin | July 27, 2004
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Scott Hardie | July 28, 2004
Dear Comcast,

Please stop disconnecting me while I'm in the middl

Erik Bates | July 28, 2004
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Scott Horowitz | July 28, 2004
Dear Mr. President.
There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three. I am not a crackpot!

Anna Gregoline | July 28, 2004
Hmm...Hawaii, Alaska and?

I would personally get rid of California, Florida, and Texas.

Erik Bates | July 28, 2004
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Melissa Erin | July 28, 2004
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Dave Stoppenhagen | July 28, 2004
I like Southern California, it's the northern portion that we can cut off.

Scott Horowitz | July 28, 2004
Geeze, you make an obscure simpsons quote and people jump all over it....

i saw open letters and thought it was funny. It is a letter that Grandpa wrote during one episode.

Melissa Erin | July 29, 2004
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Scott Hardie | July 29, 2004
Before the war, one columnist joked that we should capture Iraq, turn it into the 51st state, and let the terrorists bomb the shit out of it for us.

Anna Gregoline | July 29, 2004
I didn't catch that one either, we were just too excited about eliminating states.

Erik Bates | August 1, 2004
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Anthony Lewis | August 1, 2004
Dear My Favorite Shoes,

I just want to let you know how much I love you. I have many pairs, but you are my favorite by far. I'm so glad I went back to the store in Hamtramck to buy you. Remember the first time I wore you? I was going to a birthday party in Long Island City, and had to take the train because my car was in the shop. We're sittin' back...chillin'. The train pulls in the station and this female gets on, and no sooner than she gets on-before she even sits down, she says "I love your shoes". You know I had the big Kool Aid smile going on inside. Ohhh Yeaaah! I could have busted through a wall myself at that point. And to think I only paid $58 for you. You look like you cost ten times that amount. Just beautiful.

My shoes. Ahhhh.

Love,
Me

John Viola | August 6, 2004
Dear Work,

I am sorry, but it is over between us. We have been together for years now, and frankly all of the magic is gone. Actually, there wasn't much magic to begin with - but now I am thoroughly fed up with you. Every day that I get up I dread putting up with you. And after spending an entire day with you I am tired and drained. On days when you are away from me I am happy and playful. When we get back together, though, it is as if the misery never left.

I feel confident that you will get along just fine without me - just like you did before we met. And I know that I too will be much happier without feeling this obligation to you on a daily basis. Trust me - it is better for both of us that I make a clean break. I wish you the best in the future and hope that our time together has made as much of an impact on you as it sure as shit has made on me.

Not-So-Truly-Yours,
Me

Scott Hardie | August 7, 2004
You know, I was wondering how it was you were posting during the day...

Erik Bates | August 7, 2004
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Scott Hardie | June 21, 2005
Forgive me for resurrecting an old discussion, but I find it more appropriate than starting a new one for exactly the same purpose.

--------------

Dear Online Music Pirates:

Thank you for ruining music enjoyment for us paying customers. I use a computer for the majority of my music listening, but these days, every other CD I buy will not play in a computer due to overaggressive copy protection software installed by record companies. You people will not be happy until I'm illegally downloading music just like you, suffering poor sound quality and pretending I don't have a conscience about theft, will you? I hope your favorite bands break up.

Sincerely,
Me

Amy Austin | June 21, 2005
This discussion is funny... so much to relate to...

I was only just today telling E that sex and music were the two surest ways to give your computer some sort of VD (*virtual* disease!)... I had to do a system restore to before the point that I did an MP3 search that also resulted in a sudden proliferation of SPAM, because my "master volume" controls kept becoming mysteriously possessed. This is aggravating as all hell. So, this is a PS for the Online Music Pirates... and the Shitty Virus Writers:

-------------------------

I hope that your computers explode and that the shrapnel sends you straight to hell, where the only musical options are elevator Muzak, played at the only sound level option of "really fucking loud", which in turn will make your eardrums bleed and your head burst into fiery flames. This will be what happens to you every single day, right after you check your e-mail, which contains nothing but thousands of Viagra and free sex ads that are utterly useless to you, as you completely lack penises.

No Love,
Me

Mike Eberhart | June 21, 2005
Yo Ho, Yo Ho, it's a Pirate's Life for me...

Anna Gregoline | June 21, 2005
Dear World:

Please stop talking about Paris Hilton, the "Runaway Bride," Avril Lavigne, Green Day, Lindsay Lohan, Eminem, Michael Jackson and a few others like they matter.

Re: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Who. Cares.

You can talk about Tom Cruise alone though, because I like him better now that he's crazy.

Sincerely,
Me.

Jackie Mason | June 21, 2005
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David Mitzman | June 23, 2005
Hardie,
I think you're view on online music pirates is slightly off base. I seriously think that regardless of how popular free downloading became, the labels would still find a way to try and prevent people from copying their cd's (remember the big deal made over vcrs?). Recent report out (on slashdot) that online legal music downloading has surpassed illegal downloading. I honestly pay for napster, I love it. I download from other "sites" too. Free downloaders are a direct response to CD's costing too much. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like throwing down $14 on a CD that might have one or two "decent" songs out of twelve. If I download an album that I enjoy, I'll go out and buy it if I can afford it (more realistic now that I'm actually making money again). If not, I'll probably delete it. There are also ways around that copy protection.

Lori Lancaster | June 23, 2005
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Scott Hardie | June 24, 2005
Sorry Dave, I disagree: Free downloading occurs because people like something for nothing; if CDs cost a dollar apiece, they would still get downloaded illegally, and people would still justify it by saying "I just don't have the money to buy them all." If a push for greater copy protection is a natural occurrence in the music industry, how come it wasn't there throughout the nineties, when music could be copied to a hard drive, and didn't come to pass until after broadband Internet access made file-sharing convenient? I do not believe that the industry is losing much money over piracy or that musicians are starving in the streets, but I do believe that online piracy has resulted in CDs that I threw down $14 to own legally often being unplayable in my computer. And I'm getting sick of it.

Thanks for the mention of getting around copy protection, both of you. I shouldn't have to research or practice such methods, but apparently I do.

David Mitzman | June 24, 2005
I agree with you about the timeline of copy protection, but let's look at it from another perspective. In the movie industry, we have DVD's. DVD's were encrypted in two ways when they were released. Macrovision so you couldn't hook a dvd to a vcr or another device and do a stream copy of the movie. The way around that is a macrovision buster (a hardware device) which can be pricy. Another way is to use a dvd drive on a computer, utilize special software that deactivates macrovision, and then output to a vcr or other device. People don't do either method because it's time consuming and the copy isn't what the original is. The other encryption that came with DVD is CSS. Given that was a poorly designed and easily cracked protection scheme (anyone with a DVD RW drive can make an exact duplicate of a DVD), but that's a fault of the industry that rushed out the encryption without properly securing it first.

Where the movie industry made the right move is securing the media before it became a problem, and although people can freely copy movies, they are taking steps to solve that without the loss of functionality. I have dvd's which can be copied easily and others which cannot. All of them play exactly the same on all the players in my house and all the DVD drives in the computers.

Enter the music industry...

The standard tape comes out and people find they can make copies! Woohoo! The industry seems concerned but the problem with the copying methods that people employ is that with each copy made, quality declines. CD's come out in the 80's and all of a sudden, people can make unlimited copies to tape with only a slight decline in quality. Fast forward to the late 90's where CD-RW drives become somewhat affordable. Now people can make exact digital duplicates of their CD's with no quality difference. It's now 2005, nearing 10 years later and we are really getting our first taste of copy protected cd's in the states. This is where the music industry faulted.

The music industry failed to realize the problems that would be facing them. I know that hindsight is 20/20, but we're talking a multi-billion dollar industry here. At least the movie industry attempted a copy protection scheme (given it's easily cracked), but they tried. I know that in the 80's when cd's first came out that the music industry shouldn't expect a person to easily make an exact duplicate, but they should have at least started doing something towards 1998 when it became an affordable solution. This whole problem with cd's is, in my opinion, a product of the music industry being lazy and ignoring what were obvious signs.

I do highly disagree with you that people would claim that they don't have the money to buy them all if the price of cd's were lowered. I bet you sales would skyrocked if they dropped the price of new releases even $4 or $5. I have a problem spending $14 on a cd but not for a DVD. When I spend $15 or $20 on a DVD, I feel it's well worth it. I get a movie (sometimes 2 versions), commentary, extra features, and all sorts of good stuff. When I spend $15 on a CD, I get 10-12 songs and maybe some extra content which I'll probably never look at. If I'm lucky, 2 or 3 of the songs will be good.

On a final note (this is definitely my longest TC post), of course people like getting something for nothing. If someone came up to you and said "Here's a CD. You can give me $14 for it or have it completely for free", what would you do? Assuming no legal repurcussions are in store for taking the free route, I bet most people would go that way.

Scott Hardie | June 25, 2005
A long comment gets a long reply. :-)

I agree with your summary of the history of the situation, and I see some responsibility falling on the music industry for failing to enact better protection sooner. But I still blame music pirates for the trend, since they caused it; failure to predict it sooner on the industry's part does not excuse pirates' illegal and unethical actions. Besides, I'm usually inclined to blame the consumer in cases like this. To use your movie analogy, when a really lousy genre picture comes out (sorry "Gladiator" fans) and it inspires a whole series of mega-marketed and even lousier follow-ups ("Troy", "Alexander", "Kingdom of Heaven", even "King Arthur") whose humongous budgets could have been spent on better films, I blame the consumers for buying so many tickets to crap in the first place, not the movie industry for reacting to the consumer trend. (Not to get sidetracked with a tangent, but: I am heartened by Hollywood's reaction to this 17-week box office slump. In recent weeks, executives have finally acknowledged that: A) People do not actually want to see crappy movies. B) People are being driven away from the movie theater by those pre-show commercials.)

On lowering the price of CDs to a few bucks: Don't misunderstand me. I agree that sales of individual CDs would skyrocket, and there would be a bounce effect for the industry during which they would make even more money. What I was saying was that pirates would continue to download. Some pirates would stop, but many would continue. It's the same why-pay-for-it-when-someone-gives-it-away-for-free question that you mentioned.

And speaking of that question, I ask, does that make it right? If you consider music piracy unethical, do you solely blame the people giving music away, and not the people downloading it? I guess I should be fair and ask up-front whether you even consider it unethical. But I blame both parties: Like I said, we'd never have been subjected to "Monsters Unleashed" if people hadn't bought tickets in droves for the original "Scooby-Doo" movie, and I wouldn't be subjected to restrictions on my music if people weren't stealing it in droves. You can consider what factors make people want to participate in the trend, and you can consider how the industry predicts or reacted to the trend, but the blame for the trend still lies mostly with the people choosing to participate in it.

Piracy-related question: The first time I heard the White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan," it was through a friend's downloaded MP3s. Several of the songs had bizarre, loud sound effects in them that obscured the music & lyrics when they occurred at 2-3 points in the album. I figured they were some kind of stamp being put on the music when copied off a CD, so that the record company could track where the song went over the Internet. Last night, I went on a new-music shopping spree (thanks for the gift cards Jackie and Mike!), and bought the album. To my disappointment, the same loud, annoying sound effects are right there on the disc at the same points. What the fuck is with these sound effects? Does anybody know?

Amy Austin | June 25, 2005
Sounds like censorship to me?

I don't know the song (or, at least, I don't *think* I do...), but the title sounds like something that could possibly warrant *somebody's* censorship... or perhaps the mockery of it (as in, maybe they have the effects in there on purpose to make some kind of a statement)???

I don't know, Scott -- as I said before, I am not familiar enough with the band or its music to know... and surely, you are intelligent enough to have come up with this theory on your own, based on the context of the lyrics that you could hear, so this is probably not it -- but this is my best effort without further research. (Speaking of which, have you tried surfing for an answer yet?)

Scott Hardie | June 25, 2005
You're right, Amy. I hear censorship on the radio all the time and it hadn't even occurred to me that it might be the culprit here. I rarely pay attention to lyrics so I hadn't heard the context in which the sounds occur. I'll listen closely to see if that's it. Thanks.

Scott Hardie | June 25, 2005
Nope, that's not it. :-( Anybody else have the scoop?

Kris Weberg | June 26, 2005
I consider music piracy fully ethical, as the music industry has for years quietly settled out of court when sued over price-fixing, collusion, etc.

If the big 5 labels ware going to generate nothing but bland pop for pre-teens and bad hip-hop for suburban wannabe rebels, and then charge too much for it, all while restricting even legal Fair Use (you're legally permitted to make a backup copy of a recording you own, so a copy-protected CD would seem to restrict that right), then I'm not going to weep over stealing music.

Of course, my views on "intellectual property" in general are not quite in the mainstream, either...

Scott Hardie | June 26, 2005
Yeah, well, my views on piracy on are apparently not in the mainstream either. :-)

Kris Weberg | June 26, 2005
Perhaps we should get one of those talk shows in which we scream at one another for half an hour before politely introducing guests whom we then allow to scream at one another for another half an hour?

Scott Hardie | June 26, 2005
SHUT UP!

David Mitzman | June 27, 2005
>throws chair at hardie and starts the smack talk

John E Gunter | June 27, 2005
I find it hard to get worked up over music piracy considering how badly the big music companies treat the artists that work under them. I feel bad for the artists, but when I approached a music company for permission to use a small portion of a song on my website, I was told that I had to pay $50,000 for the privilage of using said song.

Now, I'll admit the site is one that I have generated money off of, less that 1% of my annual income, so it's not like I'm making big bucks off of it, but come on, that's the same kind of dollar amount that a radio station pays for the entire selection of songs that they play for that company. Plus, the smugness of the companies as they go after pirates just grates on my nerves. Oh and Kris' point, as the music industry has for years quietly settled out of court when sued over price-fixing, collusion, etc., as well!

John

Jackie Mason | June 27, 2005
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Michael Paul Cote | June 27, 2005
And I can say with certainty that a "new" artist will make almost no money off a first album, regardless of how well the album does. At least not off the sales of the album. The other stuff that goes along with it will bring in revenue.

David Mitzman | June 28, 2005
What I remember is how Metallica made it so big by people trading underground copies of their tapes back in the 80's. What they did is essentially attack a medium that made them popular (which of course is now digital instead of analog, but it's the same thing).

Scott Hardie | June 28, 2005
True, but Metallica gave away their tapes in the early 80s and urged fans to trade them. Online trading fifteen years later occurred without the band's consent.

Anyway, it's a moot point. Lars Ulrich has said that his very public stand against Napster was one of the dumbest things he's ever done. He was told by his representatives that people could steal Metallica music online without paying for it, and they urged him to use the band's clout to take a stand against it, hoping to turn the tide. Instead, A) they've become pariahs for it, and B) he soon changed his mind but it was too late.

I've watched Metallica change their stance on a lot of things over the years. Everybody is capable of changing their minds over time and it's usually for the better (even the Beastie Boys now renounce the misogyny of "Girls"), but Metallica often changed their minds for the worse. In the 80s, they claimed that they didn't make music videos because all of the hair-metal videos of the time featured women in skimpy outfits dancing like sex objects. What happened when Metallica had a hit single in 1998 with their cover of "Whiskey in the Jar"? The video featured a bunch of women in wet t-shirts getting drunk and having a pillow fight. Disgusting. (To be fair: I always doubted they were telling the truth in the 80s, since it was more likely that nobody wanted to fund or broadcast any videos they might have made and so they simply invented a noble excuse. Whatever.)


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