November 21, 2011

Oh, good: the age of hagiographic Beatles stories may be coming to a close

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 17:02

Or, if not a close, at least a pause:

Given the vastness and variety of the literature, it would be incorrect to say that the Beatles story has been whitewashed, not when it includes so many get-even tell-alls and book-sized sumps of sensational gossip. But there is a quasi-official version of events, and when it is reissued periodically from the tireless Beatles public relations machine, the narrative does tend to take on the unblemished pallor of approved history. For 50 years the Beatles have been the rock group you could take home to meet Mom, and nobody close to their stupendous commercial enterprise seems eager to undo the image.

Paul, Ringo, the two widows, and what remains of the original Liverpool crowd keep the history tidy for reasons that are surely as much personal as fiduciary. Beatles Anthology, the eight-hour, supposedly definitive documentary the Beatles machine released in 1995, omitted any unpleasantness that might cast a shadow on the sunny version of the Beatles story, aside from a few inescapable anecdotes about illegal drug-taking. There was no mention of the now-legendary sybaritic excesses of Beatles tours, or the friends, wives, lovers, children, and employees betrayed or discarded on the way to the top. The sulfurous rancor that at last pulled the group apart, and which continued in punishing and pointless legal maneuvers for another generation, was mostly ignored. Even today, Paul and Ringo have stalled the rerelease of the 1970 documentary Let It Be owing to its glaring display of the group’s lassitude, self-loathing, and crisscrossing bitterness. And they’re right to keep it locked away, if the point is preserving the image of the moptops. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Let It Be, but I don’t recall wanting to take any of those Beatles home to meet Mom.

The authorized version has been buffed in recent weeks with commemorations of the tenth anniversary of George Harrison’s death, at age 58, from cancer. There he was again, peering out from the cover of Rolling Stone, just like old times. Life magazine, always a codependent in Beatles mythmaking, disinterred itself long enough to get out a special celebratory issue. HBO aired a four-hour documentary put together by Martin Scorsese, Living in the Material World, which is also the title of a companion book of quotes and pictures released by Harrison’s widow Olivia.

The book is the size of a paving stone and as sumptuously produced as any coffee-table accessory can be. Scorsese’s movie, on the other hand, is a mess. Like too many documentaries nowadays, it lacks a single narrator, leaving the viewer helpless as the movie jumps back and forth through each stage of the Beatles story, from blitzed-out Liverpool to blissed-out Rishikesh. Anyone unfamiliar with the small but necessary roles in the dramatis personae will find himself wondering who all these people are. Where’d this Astrid woman come from, and how come Stuart Sutcliffe is dead all of a sudden — and now that you mention it, who was Stuart Sutcliffe anyway? Poor Pete Best, who he? (The answers for the uninitiated: Hamburg, Germany, where she befriended the young Beatles; a brain tumor; the Beatles’ first bass player; and .  .  . it’s complicated.)

Unlike most of the folks around my age, there’s almost no Beatles music in my collection (at least, by the Beatles: I’ve got Stanley Jordan’s wonderful version of Eleanor Rigby, and one or two other covers). While I wouldn’t go as far as Kathy Shaidle (“Beatles were phonier than Partridge Family, Monkees put together”), I would say that I’ve generally considered the Beatles to be over-rated.

Michael Geist on the CRTC’s usage-based billing decision

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

It’s not quite what it seems like:

My weekly technology law column [. . .] notes the resulting decision seemed to cause considerable confusion as some headlines trumpeted a “Canadian compromise,” while others insisted that the CRTC had renewed support for UBB. Those headlines were wrong. The decision does not support UBB at the wholesale level (the retail market is another story) and the CRTC did not strike a compromise. Rather, it sided with the independent Internet providers by developing the framework the independents had long claimed was absent — one based on the freedom to compete.

For many years, Canada has maintained policies theoretically designed to foster an independent ISP market. Those policies required the large Internet providers such as Bell and Rogers to make part of their network available to independent competitors. Since the large providers were not supportive of increased competition, the CRTC established mandatory rules on access, pricing, and speed matching.

Yet despite years of tinkering with the rules, the independents only garnered a tiny percentage of the marketplace (approximately six percent). The UBB issue illustrates why the independent providers have struggled since the original proposal would have allowed Bell to charge independent ISPs based on the amount of data used.

While that sounds reasonable, the cost of running a network has little to do with the amount of data consumed. Rather, it is linked to the capacity of the network — the fatter the pipe, the greater the cost, irrespective of how much data is actually consumed.

Vikings fail to impress in loss to Raiders

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:34

After Sunday’s mistake-filled outing against the Oakland Raiders, Minnesota sits at the bottom of the NFC North division with a sad 2-8 record. On top of the loss, Adrian Peterson was injured in the second quarter and did not return to the game.

Tom Pelissero:

If the season ended today, that’d merit a top-four pick in April’s NFL Draft. Only Indianapolis (0-10), Carolina (2-8) and St. Louis (2-8) have matched the Vikings in the loss column, and at least the Colts have a valid excuse.

No one circumstance can bear the blame for penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities that continue to haunt the Vikings week after week — save for the reality of a second consecutive lost season that has eviscerated any sense of urgency in the locker room.

“It’s a difference from last year, just being in there,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “Everybody has a high spirit. We were just talking about it before this game. One of the coaches pulled me to the side and was like, ‘This doesn’t feel like a losing team.'”

No, but they’re playing like one. Not always for 60 minutes, but for stretches long enough to cripple them — even against a Raiders team that hemorrhaged 117 yards on 12 penalties, had a field goal blocked and fumbled when it was trying to run out the clock.

Christian Ponder’s 37-yard strike to Visanthe Shiancoe up the seam set up a 1-yard touchdown throw to Kyle Rudolph on the next play, pulling the Vikings to within six with 5:08 to go. The defense forced a punt but the offense stalled, with Tyvon Branch breaking up Ponder’s out-breaking throw for Harvin on fourth-and-8.

“We just kept making mistakes, especially me,” said Ponder, who threw three interceptions. “I kept making mistakes, kept turning the ball over. You can’t win games that way. I’ve got a lot of learning to do.”

Jim Souhan points out that losing isn’t all bad:

There were times during the 2009 season you could have argued that the Vikings were the best team in football. Today, they are contending to become the worst.

Well before they lost to Oakland, the Vikings, a dubious stew of uninspired coaching and overrated talent, had blown their chance to contend. Beating the Raiders would have been like putting Neosporin on a broken tibia.

When you’re as bad as the Vikings have been, winning the odd game accomplishes nothing.

Losing offers hope.

The Vikings now have a realistic chance of landing the second pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

That should be their goal. The way they played for most of Sunday’s game, they should be up to the task.

Lessons learned

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 09:12

Group projects are one of the first workplace-like things that kids are exposed to in school. The eager ones jump right in, enjoying the challenge of working with others. The sensible ones only do as much as they have to. By the time you enter the workplace, you should have come to this conclusion based on your school work:

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