VEWPRF, xmas, hinduism…

i’m getting fed up with the VEWPRF (primarily xmas) hype early this year. fortunately now i’ve got a gadget in my car that i can plug my music player into so i don’t have to listen to the radio. when i’m not listening to my own music, i usually listen to the classical music station, but even they are playing xmas carols far too frequently. i just got a package of CDs from india, including “Om Arunachaneswaraya Namaha” and “Ganesh Gayatri Mantra”, both of which are more than an hour of chanting, which should cover the period of time that i’m suceptible to going off on local “christians” too much.

speaking of which, Rudiments of Language Discovered in Monkeys – more indisputable evidence that evolution is real and the creationists are wrong, wrong WRONG, regardless of how much they claim that they’re “inspired” by “god”… if any further evidence was needed.

i feel a little guilty for going off at “christians” since i am a believer myself, but i accept that science probably has a lot more clear idea of what is going on in the world than the 2000-year-old myths of a society that i do not feel a part of. i don’t deny that those myths may have value to some people, but my impression is that they are far more detrimental to most people who claim to live by them than they would care to admit. and, largely, i can say the same thing about the myths to which i adhere, in spite of the fact that they are, for the most part, totally the opposite of “christian” myths. the difference, i think, is that i admit that my myths are myths, and act accordingly. sure, i occasionally do odd things like wear a tilak, but i’m not “religious” about it, and i certainly don’t let it go this far

we played for the lenin lighting on friday, and it was cold, but it wasn’t anywhere near as cold as it would have been in new york. i dressed for it, and kept my mouthpiece in my pocket when we weren’t actually playng, but there were a lot of complaints that it was too cold. the emcee was pat cashman… who?

Artists’ lawsuit: major record labels are the real pirates – it’s about time, but i think that $50 million to $6 billion may not be enough to get the message across. remember, we’re talking about warner, sony and EMI… and it is only canada. let’s wait to see if it’s effective, and then try something like it in the untied states. definitely a step in the right direction, though.

Artists’ lawsuit: major record labels are the real pirates
Between $50 million and $6 billion may be owed to musicians and artists in Canada, but not from your run-of-the-mill file sharers. The Canadian recording industry itself is being accused of massive copyright infringement, and the list of miffed artists just keeps getting longer.
By Jacqui Cheng
December 7, 2009

Given how aggressively the recording industry likes to pursue file sharers, one would assume that the industry itself is in the clear when it comes to copyright infringement. But that assumption has been put to the test in Canada, where a massive infringement lawsuit is brewing against some major players. Members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, including the Big Four (Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada), face the prospect of damages ranging from $50 million up to $6 billion due to their use of artists’ music without permission. That’s right: $6 billion.

The lawsuit in question goes back to October 2008, but continues to be dragged up in the news because new plaintiffs keep joining the case. Most recently, jazz musician Chet Baker’s estate has joined the growing list of musicians and artists who are getting on the music industry’s case for their abuse of a certain aspect of Canadian copyright practices—something that the labels themselves don’t even deny doing.

As University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist pointed out on his blog, the issue stems from a change to the law in the 1980s that eventually produced something known as the “pending list.” Essentially, record companies no longer had to get a compulsory license every time they wanted to use a song for, say, a compilation album. Instead, they went ahead and used the song without waiting for authorization or making payment, adding the song to a list of music that is pending authorization and payment. If you’re questioning whether you read that right, that basically means the record industries could use songs as long as they pinky swore they would get authorization and pay the artist for it eventually.

As you can imagine, the business didn’t quite work that way. Instead of keeping up with its tab on the pending list, the recording industry just kept adding songs—without obtaining any rights. The pending list among the lawsuit’s defendants has topped 300,000 songs from both large and small artists alike—300,000 songs that the labels are openly admitting that they have not secured the rights for. In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that the record companies have been unjustly enriched by the use of their unauthorized music (they have, after all, been selling the music without permission and not paying out).

The plaintiffs also show that they are painfully aware of the hypocritical stance the industry has taken in regard to copyright abuse. One part of the complaint says the companies have shown “reckless, high-handed and arrogant conduct aggravated by their clandestine disregard for the copyright interests of the class members in contrast to their strict compliance enforcement policy and unremitting approach to consumers in the protection of their corporate copyright interests.” Ouch.

The recording companies targeted in the suit acknowledge that the pending list reflects unpaid royalties “in excess of $50 million,” but the real extent of the damage could go far higher—possibly to the tune of $6 billion. This is because the class is asking for both statutory and punitive damages for the labels’ behavior (as Geist points out, the same standards being used to go after individual file sharers), meaning that the labels could be asked to pay up to $20,000 per infringement.

Rudiments of Language Discovered in Monkeys
By Brandon Keim
December 7, 2009

Campbell’s monkeys appear to combine the same calls in different ways, using rules of grammar that turn sound into language.

Whether their rudimentary syntax echoes the speech of humanity’s evolutionary ancestors, or represents an emergence of language unrelated to our own, is unclear. Either way, they’re far more sophisticated than we thought.

“This is the first evidence we have in animal communication that they can combine, in a semantic way, different calls to create a new message,” said Alban Lemasson, a primatologist at the University of Rennes in France. “I’m not sure it has strong parallels with humans, in the way that we will find a subject and object and verb. But they have meaningful units combined into other meaningful sequences, with rules imposed on how they’re combined.”

Lemasson’s team previously described the monkeys’ use of calls with specific meanings in a paper published in November. It detailed the monkeys’ basic sound structures and their uses: “Hok” for eagle, “krak” for leopard, “krak-oo” for general disturbance, “hok-oo” and “wak-oo” for general disturbance in forest canopies. A sixth call, “boom,” was used in non-predatory contexts, such as when calling a group together for travel or arguing with neighboring groups.

Impressive as that was, however, it was still relatively one-dimensional, not much different from verbalizations heard in many animal species, from other non-human primates to songbirds. The team’s latest findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe something far more complicated: syntax, or principles of word sequence and sentence structure.

Though some researchers have ascribed syntax to animals, it’s never been formally demonstrated — until now.

“People have criticized the use of ’syntax’ to describe animals just because they produce sequences of sound. They say that each unit has no meaning, that no rules explain how they’re combined,” said Lemasson. “Here we have rules of combination.”

For example, male monkeys called “boom boom” to gather other monkeys to them, but “boom boom krak-oo krak-oo” meant that a tree or branch was about to fall. Adding a “hak-oo” to that sequence turned it into a territorial warning against stray monkeys from neigboring groups. Multiple “krak-oo” calls added to an original “krak” meant not only that a leopard was in the area, but that it posed an immediate threat.

The research raises the question of whether early humans or our primate ancestors combined calls in a similar way, turning a small set of sounds into a rich verbal reportoire.

According to Lemasson and to Jared Taglialatela, a chimpanzee communication researcher at Clayton State University, it’s too soon to say whether the monkey talk is proto-human.

“I’d shy away from that. But this is certainly syntax,” said Taglialatela, who was not involved in the study. But he described the proto-human question as secondary to a far more intriguing possibility: that the potential for language is widespread in the animal kingdom.

“People like to draw lines and make boxes and put animals inside them. I don’t like to do that. There are differences and shades of grey. And when you take the time to collect data in a way that allows you to recognize complexity and patterns, than you find evidence of them,” said Taglialatela.

Lemasson’s analysis was based on a vast set of recordings, gathered from 10 monkey groups observed for two full years in their African rain forest homes.

Lemasson, who is further investigating Campbell’s monkey talk by measuring their reactions to recorded calls, suspects that a dense jungle environment drove the evolution of syntax. Since the monkeys had trouble seeing each other, they compensated by talking.

The same compensatory dynamic could operate in other species, such as whales that live in mostly sunless waters, he said.

“We can imagine that this ability has evolved in other lineages,” said Lemasson.