Thursday, June 14, 2012

Minores Deos in Pantheon Saecularium Religio Statism

It's not exactly news that New York's mayor Bloomberg now wants to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. I just read a post at Economic Policy Journal that explains some of the reasons why this is such a dumb idea. Something stood out to me as I read the blog:
Last time I looked in the Bible, I found no mention of  Bloomberg. I didn't find his name mentioned in the Koran either. So I am pretty sure he is no ones [sic] god.
It reminded me of a show I watched on PBS. I know, it's my own damn fault for watching PBS, but former congressman and vice chair of the 9/11 commission was discussing the commission's published report. The discussion itself was so boring that I honestly don't remember much from it. The one part that did catch my attention was when Lee Hamilton said: "Democracy is a civil religion in America... And this is good."

I was quite surprised he would admit the existence of this secular religion. I was not surprised, however, that he approves of it. In affirming the statist religion he makes himself a minor deity in the secular pantheon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No Better Way to Say It

I spent a good part of last week making a video for Slacker Ambition. Here is the result:

Sketchboo Pro is working really well for me. That is how I made the drawings. I imported the drawings into Anime Studio to do the animation. It's a pretty simple program and works fairly well. Or at least I'm satisfied enough with the results.

I also uploaded some older Slacker Ambition songs to Band Camp. You can download the songs for free. The downloads are all "name your price". I think of it not so much as a price as more of a donation, and yes, donations are always welcome. Of course it isn't really about the money. I'm trying to follow my own personal philosophy to always be producing, but it's not easy being a broke artist.

And of course, all of the songs were released on a non-commercial creative commons attribution license so feel free to share them and where you found them.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kickstart the NEA Shutdown

Talking Points Memo has an interesting post about Kickstarter. If you haven't heard of Kickstarter before, here's a summary from Wikipedia:
One of a new set of fundraising platforms dubbed "crowdfunding", Kickstarter facilitates gathering monetary resources from the general public, a model which circumvents many traditional avenues of investment. People must apply to Kickstarter in order to have a project posted on the site, and Kickstarter provides guidelines on what types of projects will be accepted. Project owners choose a deadline and a target minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen target is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected...

Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. However, projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site.

“Kickstarter can be used to fund projects from the creative fields of Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater. We currently only support projects from these categories.” It seems that there could be opportunities to bring crowdfunding into other business fields as well.

I think the crowdfunding innovation is a benefit to society as a whole, and Kickstarter seems to be quite a success at it. Recently Kickstarter has had 3 projects raise over a million dollars, but the main point of the TPM post was that Kickstarter is on track to raise about $150 million this year which makes its funding total greater than the NEA.

That is fantastic on many levels!

First, that these projects get to be made enriches society. Second people chose which projects they wanted to donate to. Therefore, all these projects are just that... wanted. This is much more effecient than a panel of "experts" deciding who and what gets funded because it taps in to the Hayekian distributed knowledge. Third, it proves that the argument that important projects won't get fund without government assistance argument is wrong. Of course, some projects won't get funded. "54 percent of all projects launched on the website fail to reach their funding goals, according to Strickler, but the projects that are wanted and needed still would. Fourth, should a project that needs funding be morally objectionable to someone, they don't have to fund it. Every year people argue about some of the things the NEA funds because something or another upset their delicate sensibilities. In a voluntary system people can't complain about being forced to fund something they don't like.

For all of these reasons I was surprised to this article on TPM which usually leans to the left politcally. Then I saw this disappointing quote from the founder of Kickstarter about raising more money than the NEA: “But maybe it shouldn’t be that way,” Strickler said, “Maybe there’s a reason for the state to strongly support the arts.”

He might as well have said: "Maybe Kickstarter shouldn't be so successful. Maybe people should get the projects they want. Maybe people should be forced to fund things they don't like." Actually, I can think of two reasons "for the state to strongly support the arts". One is to create propaganda, and the other is to promote a particular agenda favorable to the state. Personally, I don't like either one.

Apolitical Episode 2

Actually, the charges against Megaupload claim that the removal of the search function was evidence of a conspiracy. So the DOJ is actually making this argument, but it seems that Chris Dodd CEO and chief lobbyist for the MPAA has become the DOJ's unofficial spokesperson on piracy related matters.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My First Apolitical Comic

I got a pen tablet the other day for my laptop. It was fairly cheap so I figured if it saves me some time great. If not, I'm not out much, and I'll have a toy for my daughter to play with. I tried it out, and as it turns out. It works pretty well. I made my first apolitical comic. (Apolitical in the sense that I can't stand politics.)

(Just in case you hadn't heard, Chris Dodd CEO and cheif lobbyist of the MPAA blamed SOPA's failure on Google instead of the mass uprising that was against. So in other words, anyone who is against it, in his opinion, just duped by Google and Wikipedia.)

I'm not the best artist around, but this drawing only took me about 10 minutes. In fact it took me longer to get the text layed out properly. I was using Paint, you know, the free program that comes with windows. I really need to get a better drawing program. I'm thinking about getting Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It's reasonably priced also.

The pen tablet is made by Monoprice, which I've never heard of before, but then again, it's not really my field of specialty. It seems to be a decent quality tool. As long as it doesn't fall apart any time soon, I think I've made a good purchase.

I have some loosely layed out guidance that I'm trying. I've decided I'm going to started buying better tools and software instead of using free stuff e.g. a pen tablet and Sketchbook instead of a mouse and Paint. Hopefully my purchases will save me time. I'll just have to make sure that I don't waste all this extra time playing with my new toys.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music Demographic

I came across a post on the DIY Musician blog. They've posted an open letter to venue owners by jazz musician Dave Goldberg. The letter is about the current state of business models in the music venue business.

Let me clarify before I begin. I'm talking about businesses that offer live music as a compliment to their core business, e.g. a rock band at a bar, a one piece acoustic show at a coffee house, or a jazz band at a winery. More than just a stage in a building that sells tickets. The current practice is for venues to pay little and require musicians to provide customers. Here's what Goldberg had to say about it:
If you asked a club owner, "who is your target demographic?" I doubt they would answer "the band’s friends and family." But yet clubs operate like it is. Another example, I answered a craigslist ad for a nice looking place in Beverly Hills. The ad read…"looking for a high energy jazz band, if you can bring the band and have a following, I will put you on stage." That logic seams to say that they think musicians in a jazz band know lots of people living in Beverly Hills. And the people those musicians know, have lots of money to spend. Those are two pretty big assumptions. Good luck finding that combination. Even if you find that combination, are you going to find it every night? Because friends and family of a professional musician won’t come out that often. They can’t. This is what we do every night. Would you expect the chef’s friends and family to eat at your restaurant every night? How about the dishwasher, the waitresses, the hostess? Or how about the club owners friends and family? You see, when you start turning this argument around, it becomes silly.
So every night venue has live music, the owners want a different crowd of people who won't come back until the band comes back. It doesn't look like a very good business model. For a business to thrive they would want to have a customer base that is loyal to the venue. The entertainment should help build that loyalty with the businesses customer base in a complimentary way. Instead it's looked at as a temporary boost, only lasting the one night when the musician is there.

Goldberg also retells an argument he had with a venue owner:
At the end of the night, I go to get paid, and hope to book another gig. The club owner was angry."Where are your people?" he asked. "All these people, I brought in. We had a speed dating event and they are all left over from that." I pointed out they all stayed and listened to the music for 2 hours after their event ended. That was 2 more hours of bar sales, because without us, you have an empty room with nothing going on. He just couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t walk in with our own entourage of fans. Wasn’t happy that we kept a full room spending money. Right when we were talking, a group of people interrupted us and said "you guys sound  great, when is the next time you’re playing here again?" The club owner, said "they aren’t, they didn’t  bring anyone."
As a thought experiment, imagine a situation like this. A club has a few regulars, and the owner only brings in bands that have a bunch of friends that come to see them. Keeping in mind that having a bunch of friends who come to a club to hang out with you does not equate to being good musicians, let's say this hypothetical band isn't very good. The band and their friends come, but all the clubs regulars leave. The club makes money for the night so the owner's happy, and asks them to come back. How many times does the band have to show up and make the regulars go home before the regulars stop coming back. This is a flimsy and temporary business model.

A much better model would be for the venue to act as a filter so that loyal customers would always know that there is going to be great music there. This is similar to an article I read on Techdirt about how a "music affinity group" would be an improvement over the record label business model.