Nov 30, 2011

Yankees World Series Parade - 1996

Below is my journal entry from the day I spent photographing the New York Yankees parade, on October 29, 1996 in lower Manhattan, New York City. The Yankees won the World Series again in 1998, and the whole city celebrated. New York takes its sports very seriously. I got up at four in the morning to get a good spot to photograph the parade, and shot about six rolls of film. I also photographed the 1998 parade as well. This journal entry is from the 1996 parade. Sit back and enjoy this historic day in New York, if you're interested.

If you would like to see a huge gallery of images from both parades, click HERE.


Four AM.

Ossining was sound asleep in the chilled, October morning, with the sun having hours yet to make its appearance. The traffic light hanging limply at the intersection blinked yellow mutely, with no cars to heed its signal. The corners where buildings met sidewalks were cluttered with the washed up tides of dead, brittle leaves, scuttling frantically at the insistence of the bitter wind.

The train station at the bottom of the hill in Ossining was nearly deserted save for a woman who tried to hand me religious pamphlets. When I turned her down she returned to her car and sat in the dark, parked by the stairs that led down to the train platform, watching me.

I didn't care.

I squatted by a bale of newspapers and undid one bale, taking a New York Times and leaving sixty cents. I waited for the 5:05 train in the harsh brightness of the train shelter, sitting on the cold cement. I was not dressed for cold weather; I was wearing my faded jeans, safari jacket and safari shirt underneath. These were my "photo shoot" clothes, much like Harriet and her spy clothes from the book Harriet the Spy. Beside me sat my camera bag that carried all my gear.

A sullen, orange zone  was just showing on the horizon behind the New York skyline as the Metro North train rumbled between the rundown buildings lining 125th St, then through the blackness underneath the New York city streets, until the train came to a stop at the platform at Grand Central terminal. I followed the groggy sea of bodies up the concrete platform that smelled of oil, rubber and roasted nuts, into the main concourse of Grand Central, grabbing a large coffee and headed for the subway.

It was filled with people going to work or to the parade.

City hall dominated a tiny jetty of grass and several trees which was a City Hall Park, and divided Broadway into a Y, with Broadway continuing north, and Park Row winding around and meeting the busy Bowery, which headed north as well. It was here where One Police Plaza was located. Park Row was jammed with television trucks and vans, tended by crews coiling cable, making connections and standing around nursing cups of coffee. The sun would not make its appearance above the tall buildings in lower Manhattan for several hours yet; it was just 6:15 and in the morning shadows, a chill remained. Blue police sawhorse barricades fenced off the park, and empty faced police officers stood around lamely, with no traffic or crowds to direct yet.

I cut onto Broadway, which was entirely lined with barricades. People shuffled up and down the sidewalks, and police cars were cruising back and forth importantly, red lights flashing. People were already camped out along the barricades in clumps, sitting on blankets and bundled up against the cold. At the doorways to the tall office buildings that lined Broadway where large bags of shredded paper, ready to be lugged up to the offices and tossed out the windows. Large paper recycling and paper shredding trucks were making stops, depositing more paper, jockeying for space with taxicabs and delivery trucks. Amid these preparations were people in suits and ties on their way to work.

What lower Broadway looked like at 7 am...

...and at what it looked like at 11 am

A tall, lanky looking kid with no shirt on and a Yankee baseball hat was shouting at people, "YEAH YANKEES! NUMBER ONE!" People strolling up and down the street wore Yankee T-shirts, hats, and some were carrying carefully rolled up banners. I passed two small tents that sat beside the barricades, where diehard fans had obviously spent the night. People gathered on blankets were reading comic books or newspapers, trying to keep warm. Police officers and sanitation workers moved briskly up and down the street, tending to their tasks while the street and sidewalk were still sparsely populated.

The huge, iron bull by the Merrill Lynch building was cordoned off by blue barricades, frozen in mid-charge, as if the barricades were containing him. Further up Broadway was Battery Park, at the tip of lower Manhattan. It was congested with buses and trucks covered with the Yankees logo and the title World Champions. A huge, inflatable baseball glove sat on a float. A row of press people with TV cameras and broadcast equipment are contained in one area. Police, security guards and parade officials milled around aimlessly. I decided that the plaza at Cortland and Broadway would offer the best view, so I headed back.

I stopped at the two tents on the sidewalk. You just don't see tents sitting on a sidewalk. Well, maybe in New York you do, but I'm not a native New Yorker, so I wouldn't know these things. Sitting between the tents was a middle-aged lady in a beach chair wearing gloves and a winter coat. "Did you spend a whole night  out here?" I asked.

"No, but my son did." she answered. "He went to try to get an autograph from one of the players, I'm holding his spot for him."

"I'm surprised the police let him pitch a tent here all night."

"Well, he knows the right people, I guess."

"Did you stay out here also?"

"Oh, no, I slept in the car. I parked it in a parking lot not too far from here, where they have a security guard."

I laughed. "I've never spent the night in a car before. Did you get a lot of sleep?"

She shrugged. "I got about three hours of sleep."

"You must be diehard fans," I commented, shaking my head.

"My son is. He's thirty-two years old, and he loves the Yankees."

I chatted with her a bit more before continuing on, running into the screaming, shirtless fan who was either hungover, dazed from lack of sleep, or both. "I've been up since last night dude." he blurted with heavy lidded eyes. "Go Yankees!" he shouted.

At just after 7 AM, the streets were not crowded yet, although tour buses were as abundant as police vehicles. The cold was making my teeth chatter. I decided to stake out my chosen spot from the McDonald's across the street, where I could keep my eye on it. Inside, a mother was sitting at one table at the front window while her son was excitedly coming and going. Two elegant black women sat at another table watching the activity before heading to work. I set my gear down on the window ledge and began nursing my coffee. Sitting nearby was a fussy looking woman named Susan Sokol. She had very short, grayish silver hair that clung tightly to her head, and a gaunt face that spoke of a life of constant disapproval. She was thin and had on a long, business trenchcoat. Her thin, small hands busily worked at the croissant and coffee before her.

"It's an imposition," she was saying. "They should have done this on the weekend when people didn't have to go to work. I like baseball, but it's not fair for those of us who have to work to put up with all this. I had to park over four blocks away, and it took me over two hours to get to work this morning."

I asked her where she worked, and she told me the World Trade Center, mentioning that she had been there the day of the explosion [the first World Trade Center attack]. I asked her what it was like. She shook her head. "It's undescribable. It was like a war zone, with all these trucks, the media and fire trucks. I'll never forget it as long as I live."

A thin black woman outside came by and held up a counterfeit Yankee T-shirt. The mother sitting inside asked in a loud voice how much. The vendor opened  her hand twice; ten dollars. "How many do you have?" The woman asked loudly. The vendor flashed her open palm several times, and after a moment's consideration, the mother signed that she would buy two for eight. The vendor nodded and the mother got up to go get them. The hand signals reminded me of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where traders communicated by hand signals.

"Well I'm not a native New Yorker or anything," I said to Susan Sokol, "but the Yankees are such an integral part of New York City's identity that when they win the World Series the city wants to celebrate."

"Some of us still have to get to work." she insisted. "Businesses don't stop just because the Yankees win the World Series. I have a job to get to; I shouldn't have to deal with this." She finished her breakfast and we exchanged goodbyes.

Outside, the street was becoming more crowded, so I headed back outside, to keep an eye on my spot. It was almost eight; the parade would not begin until eleven-thirty. People were handing out free copies of the Daily News and selling team posters for fifty cents. A vendor with a knapsack came by hawking baseball bat pens for five bucks a pop. At the corner of Cortland, an Eyewitness News 7  TV truck was parked, with two guys setting up railing on the roof. A sixty foot high antenna assembly was topped by a TV camera and radar dish-type component. A police stake-body cargo truck cruised by carrying police golf carts. A small three wheeled police scooter patrolled the barricades, stopping to tell people at the curb not to stick their feet out because of the traffic. 

The marble platform in front of a tall office building would put me about sixteen feet above the street, giving me a perfect spot to photograph the parade. Building security guards stood atop of it, preventing anyone from climbing on top. By the time the parade began, however, there would be so many people, they would not be able to tell anyone what to do. So for now I let my camera bag occupy the spot for me.

As I stood watching the proceedings, a middle-aged man wearing a Yankees jacket stood beside me. He was shorter than me, with square rimmed glasses, and deep lines of age spreading from his nose. His cheeks had begun to sag, and he had a barely noticeable trace of hair on his upper lip. He had the welcoming, avuncular look of a favorite uncle or grandfather.

"I tried to convince my son to let his daughter come with me today," he said in a raspy, understated voice. He shook his head. "He wouldn't let her. This kind of thing doesn't happen every year, I told him, but he wouldn't listen. 'She's got school', he says. Oh well. What c'n you do, ya know?"

I nodded. The school chancellor had the unenviable job of insisting that the schools stay open during the parade. Still, one in three pupils would be absent today, as it would later turn out.

The man's name was Joseph Rocco (left); I took his picture and he insisted on giving me five bucks to send him enlargement. We chatted as we waited, and on the other side of me was a calm looking guy in his mid-30s, with a grayish beard who had turned out to catch the parade. He was talking to people on his cell phone. In the windows above, people were beginning to appear, some hanging out homemade banners. Joseph handed me his binoculars, pointing out the good looking women. There were plenty to look at.

There was a festive joy in the air. Even taxicabs were stopping between the intersections to let pedestrians cross, something unheard of in New York City. We still had over two and a half hours before the parade began. 

Slowly the sidewalks began to get more crowded. From one person deep at the barricades, it became two and three people deep. The space between where I stood and the crowds at the barricades shrank until people were squeezing by between us. People were beginning to get jostled. "We're New Yorkers," the man with the beard said. "We don't care. We don't say excuse me."

I grinned. "Right. It's more like 'get the fuck out of the way'." 

He nodded mildly. "That's it. That's what New Yorkers are like. We don't care."

People were tossing rolls of toilet paper up into the air, across the street, and booing when it didn't leave a floating trailer white gauze. Confetti and shredded paper were already beginning to float down from the windows above like a hesitant blizzard. The sidewalk was a mess of newspaper and stationery. Toilet paper had collected at the street signs and lampposts and fluttered peacefully in the breeze. A  nearly solid line of police officers kept the sea of people behind the barricades. As the tour buses and delivery trucks drove through, the crowd cheered and roared boisterously. The security guards for the building who stood on the marble platforms to keep people off had given up, and now it was covered with people, myself included. I helped Joseph climb up beside me so he could get a good view.

Below me, a black man was escorting his son through the crowds, saying, "Don't look at me. It's not my fault if you and your mother fell asleep when they won."

People in the offices were leaning out of the windows and sitting on the ledges, some having made their own banners. One was apparently not spelled correctly, because a portion of the crowd began chanting, "You can't spell!" thrusting accusatory fingers into the air.

"What's going on?" Joseph asked me.

I shrugged. "One of those signs has a typo, I guess." I watched as the woman on the ledge beside the sign leaned forward, inspecting the sign, and after a few minutes she pulled it into the building, eliciting a raucous cheer from the crowd.

The energy and noise continued building. The crowd alternated between singing Take Me Out To the Ball Game, to cheering Way To Go Yankees. Looking up at the narrow river of sky between the tall buildings, I felt like I was in a snow globe. Bits of paper and streams of gauzy toilet paper floated and swirled, in no hurry to reach the ground. 

People covered every horizontal surface, including the huge girder lining the base of the building behind me, over ten feet above the steps that led to the entrances underneath. Their legs dangled over the edge like the old pictures of the construction workers eating lunch on a girder high above the city. I wondered how they got up there. A police officer on a horse trotted up the street, producing more cheers from the masses. The New York Times would write the following day, "... Lower Manhattan groaned under the weight of a crowd that Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani put at 3.5 million, an estimate probably born more out of enthusiasm than precise methodology".

Finally the parade became visible, inching down Broadway beginning with a police car with its lights blinking.

"Is that it?" The grey bearded man asked me. He stood on the sidewalk below me; I was on the marble platform sixteen feet above the ground. I told him that looked like it. Greybeard handed at me his camcorder and I panned the street and buildings, getting some good footage for him. 

I had both cameras around my neck and my disposable panoramic camera and a cargo pocket of my safari jacket. I was shooting both color and black-and-white. Down the street came the huge glove and baseball, moving slowly through the river of bodies. A near blizzard of paper, stationery and toilet paper filled the air. The roar of the people was near deafening, a surging, physical force. People on the marble Island around me jockeyed for space, while below, parents guide their kids through the throngs, fruitlessly looking for good views. 

The next float contained the Rockettes, the famous chorus girls dressed in green Christmas elf outfits, eliciting some wolf whistles that made it above the roar. As the baseball players themselves came through on their floats, with their names on the side, they seemed overwhelmed by the turnout and the energy. One spectator had a huge python, and hoisted it about his head as the floats passed. The players and wives gaped and pointed at the snake, mouthing, "Oh my God". 

Next came a string of classic convertibles occupied by city officials, including the ethically challenged State Sen. Al D'Amato, Joe DiMaggio, and the governor. One of the convertibles was a city owned 1952 Chrysler phaeton, discovered in the corner of a sanitation department garage covered in soot, and now used for official functions. Worth more than $350,000, only five were built and only three now exist. 

My fingers were beginning to tingle as the feeling in them began making an exit, but I ignored the loss of feeling, concentrating on shooting the floats as they moved through the river of bodies. In between the floats were press photographers and TV camera crews who occasionally panned their cameras at the crowds, which screamed and jumped and flailed their arms in spasms of enthusiasm. The TV news van at the corner had the anchorman standing on the roof in front of the camera, broadcasting the parade live for the benefit of those who couldn't attend. A double-decker sightseeing bus and antique fire truck slowly rolled by, signaling the end of the parade.

At this point the crowd began to break up and disperse, eddying in different directions. Some followed the parade to City Hall, others lingered to scoop up the piles of paper that lay everywhere, throwing them into the air.

Joseph climbed down from the marble pedestal. "You coming down?"

"No, I'm going to stay up here a bit longer, and shoot some more pictures."

"Hey, it was nice to meetchya." Joseph said, extending a vein covered hand. I squatted and shook it firmly.

"It was nice to meet you too Joseph." I answered. People swarmed around us and shouts and cheers filled the air. I meant it; I had enjoyed watching the parade with him. "When I get the pictures processed I'll send you a nice one. You've got my word on that." Joseph wandered away, merging with the bodies, and after a few more minutes of pictures I jumped down as well, slinging my camera bag over my shoulder and merging with the sea of bodies.

The street was awash in paper; the asphalt was completely covered. People were running around throwing paper at each other. Others were posing in the drifts for pictures taken by their companions. The air was filled with post-parade glee. People were chasing each other, dancing and engaging guerrilla paper fights. With ticker tape being obsolete and nonexistent now, everything from express delivery envelopes to entire boxes of unshredded, confidential records had been hurled out the windows. In fact, The New York Times would report that checks issued by the city Housing Authority and records of unemployment checks from the Department of Social Services have been tossed out the windows.

The police immediately closed down Broadway starting at Cortland, and crowds of people massed at the barricades like blood clotting at a cut. I found myself jostled and squeezed as I tried to exit Broadway. Since the police were trying to minimize the number of people making it to City Hall, I squeezed through the crowds, ducking down the darkened canyon of Cortland toward Nassau Street.

The tall buildings rose high on all sides, keeping out the sun high above, plunging the street into perpetual shadows. Paper was everywhere; I shuffled through it like autumn leaves. I ended up at the South St., Seaport which was touristy as hell, but at least I would be able to grab some chow while I waited for the crowds to diminish. By now, a small number of police officers were returning to their cruisers to find them smashed up, having served as a platform for parade spectators who decided that when the Yankees win the World Series, anything goes. Jack Acree, a 33-year-old food consultant, parked at Tribeca towers, at what he had assumed was a safe distance from the parade route. When he returned to his car, he found it had been crushed and the windshield shattered. Not by vandals, but by the weight of spectators we climbed on top of it to watch the festivities. His Honda Accord  was totaled. Amazingly enough, he was not even angry at the people who would smashed his car. "This is New York City, " he explained to the New York Times

The sun was soothing and warm as I listened to the ceremony for the Yankees taking place at City Hall Park on the TV above the bar. The police commissioner was presenting Wade Boggs with a certificate making him an honorary policeman, and also a police helmet. Boggs had ridden around Yankee Stadium on a police horse after the final out that had decided the game. People had run out onto the field, and the Yankees themselves had formed a huge pig pile, with one player jumping on top and rolling off the other side. 

"I'm so proud to be a Yankee." Boggs said, stepping up to the microphone, holding the certificate. "But most of all, I'm also so proud of you fans. You talk about the greatest spectacle in the history of sports. This ticker tape parade was the greatest sports spectacle in history."

I didn't stick around to watch the rest of the ceremony. I had more pictures to take.

Nov 29, 2011

Address Is Approximate - Short Film

This is an amazing little short video. I'd ruin it if I told you what it is about, but trust me; this is a good use of two and a half minutes of your time. Enjoy!

Address Is Approximate from The Theory on Vimeo.

Nov 28, 2011

The Man Behind the Protest Mask

Alan Moore is a legendary creator of graphic novels; he created V For Vendetta, the graphic novel that was the inspiration for the film starring Hugo Weaving as V (Weaving gained fame for playing Agent Smith in The Matrix and Elrond in The Lord of the Rings). The most iconic element about the movie was, of course, the Guy Fawkes mask.

It's a mask which has become an icon of protest, worn first by members of Anonymous to protect their identities while protesting Scientology from its notorious lawyers and reprisals. Later it became a prominent fixture of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

The mask is trademarked by Time Warner, a huge entertainment corporation that has received some nice revenue from sales of the mask. However, it puts Time Warner is a tricky spot, as a product they license is used to protest corporations.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Alan Moore talks about his creation becoming an icon of protest, and the mixed feelings he has with the big screen adaptations of some of his other works.

For a more comprehensive look at V For Vendetta, read V For Vendetta - An Analysis

Link to article

Link to official V For Vendetta website

Link to purchase V For Vendetta

Nov 27, 2011

The Magic of Zoetropes

This is going to be a fun post, all about zoetropes. What, you are not familliar with this concept? Well you are in the right place then! But first, watch this 57 second-long video:

Isn't that cool? This art piece is called Feral Front by Gregory Barsamian. This is a zoetrope, a device that uses still pictures or sculptures to create the illusion of motion. When the zoetrope is moving, you see nothing but a blur, but when a specially timed light shines on it, your eye is" tricked" into seeing movement, and the images come alive. This is how movies work as well, by the way; combining thousands of still images to create the illusion of movement.

Pixar did a zoetrope, and in their usual style, it is fantastic. The director of Pixar's Up explains how animation works, and introduces the incredible Pixar zoetrope filled with Pixar characters:

Here's a better animation of Pixar's zoetrope:

...and a video of it shot by a visitor:

Zoetropes can be traced back to an early Chinese inventor in 180 AD named Ding Huan, but the first modern zoetrope was invented in 1834 by William George Horner, who used pictures drawn on a strip of paper and when rotated in a drum with slots in the side, the illusion of motion was created. The faster the drum span, the smoother the motion appeared.

Here is a video someone shot of an early zoetrope in action:

One interesting variation of zoetropes were kits you could purchase that would allow you to watch zoetropes on your record player. That's right, your record player. You would put the disc on the turntable, and on top of that the drum, and when the turntable rotated, you would get the effect. Here is a video of this product in action:

Subway Zoetropes

Zoetropes have even been put in subways and are beginning to be used for advertising. In 1980, independent film-maker Bill Brand installed a type of linear zoetrope he called the "Masstransiscope" in an unused subway platform at Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. It consisted of a linear wall with 228 slits in the face. Behind each slit was a hand-painted panel. Riders in subways moving past the display saw a motion-picture within. Check it out:

Here's an example of an advertising zoetrope on another subway:

Cake maker Alexandre Dubosc created this fantastic Tim Burton-themed zoetrope cake and a video to demonstrate it. C'est magnifique!

And finally, Sony created the largest zoetrope in the world in 2008 to promote their motion interpolation technology:

Read more about zoetropes HERE. Hope you enjoyed this post!

Roller Coaster Stairway

An awesome walkable stairway meant to look like a roller-coaster is being built in Germany. The link below has lots of cool images of this art piece. Wish I could see it in person!

Nov 26, 2011

The 1970s: A Look Back

By the time the 1970s rolled around, people began to notice what was happening to the environment, and the price the country was paying for it's prosperity and progress: pollution. Lots of it.

Thus the environmental movement was born.

Documerica has a fascinating gallery of photos that were taken in the early 1970s to document not just the environmental toll at the time, but also society as well. Above is a picture of mountains of damaged oil drums at an Exxon refinery in Louisiana in 1972.

The photographs have led to a lively discussion in the comments thread as well.

Nov 22, 2011

The Piracy Dilemma

This post is about the current controversy surrounding copyright and the future of the Internet.

Anti-piracy laws are being introduced that would allow the government to shut down web sites at the slightest provocation, and force Internet companies like Google to cave in to the demands of government censors or risk being shut downThe word piracy is used constantly, with content creators such as movie studios, the music industry, and publishers decrying how much money they are losing by illegal file sharing online.
(image credit: The Pirate Shack)

The newest legislation to be introduced, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), has generated opposition by some of the most powerful players in Silicon Valley — Google, Facebook, Zynga, eBay, Twitter, Yahoo, and LinkedIn — who have taken out full-page advertisements to oppose the bill (see it here). Even Microsoft has opposed the bill, noteworthy because Microsoft earns most of its revenue by licensing software--which can, of course, be pirated. The New York Times ran an editorial about SOPA, calling it the Great Firewall of America.  Another editorial explains why this legislation is unwise and overly  broad  HERE.

There is a lot at stake here, and it will affect you. Yes, you.

This new legislation, if enacted, would attack the sharing, openness, and participation that the Internet represents, creating an Internet of walled kingdoms patrolled by government censors,  As a recent study pointed out, the SOPA legislation could lead to a decline in Internet innovation.

Entertainment interests blame "rogue" sites and "overseas pirates" who steal content and make it available elsewhere on the Internet at a cheaper price. In the name of protecting intellectual property and making the Internet safe for users, they risk destroying what makes the Internet so special in the first place.

Some Internet service providers are even being pressured to spy on their customers, and track what sites their customers visit, a shocking violation of privacy and free speech. The European Court of Justice recently struck down such plans after a 7 year battle (LINK)

Why do people pirate movies and music? 

The reality is that "piracy" is simply an expression of demand. If consumers cannot get what they are seeking from content providers, they will get it somewhere else, usually through unauthorized channels.  Content creators claim that there should be no reason to pirate any media at all, since it is all available through legitimate means, so anyone who pirates must simply be determined to break the law.
(image credit: gamrfeed)

The reality is not so simple.

 "Citizens increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what is behind it. Many see the current system as a tool to punish and withhold, not a tool to recognize and reward."

--European Union Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes

How does this affect ME...??

To give you example of what this means in real life, let's take the example of movies, one of the biggest sources of unauthorized distribution online. The studios claim to be losing billions of dollars in revenue through  illegal filesharing.

But are they giving their customers what they are asking for? Very often the people who buy legal content end up with a more inferior product than if they obtained it through filesharing. 

With a legally purchased movie, you are burdened with:
  • an ever-increasing number of previews you have to skip past in order to reach the main menu so you can start watching your film
  • an FBI piracy warning that you cannot skip past
  • security settings that may not let you play your DVD on your DVD player or computer
  • lower quality resolution on movie downloads to discourage copying
  • an inability to make a backup copy of a product you legally purchased (known as Digital Rights Management) Read more about DRM here.
Now consider downloading the same movie online:
  • no FBI message you're forced to watch
  • higher resolution than legal downloads
  • no restrictions on how many devices you can view your movie on
  • no annoying previews to jump through
  • more choice of movies than legal offerings
In essence, the people who download illegally are the ones who end up with the superior product. 

UPDATE: Warner Home Entertainment's latest example of clulessness would have customers drive to a kiosk to pay to legally rip their DVDs, which would only work (maybe) in approved devices. Warner calls this safe and convenient. Public Knowledge has a scathing review of this scheme HERE, along with this helpful info graphic:

Another perfect example of this is an article in the Los Angeles Times about the studios' clumsy attempts to give their customers more options, but makes them jump through hoops. To watch a legally purchased movie on an iPad requires registering on two sites and installing two new pieces of software on a PC and another application on a mobile phone or tablet to download the film. Even then the movie won't play, because it's incompatible. The person interviewed for the story finally gave up on the process. LINK
(image source: Virgin Tech)

Illegally downloaded movies have no such restrictions. 

In an article called Movie Fans Turn To Piracy When the Online Cupboard is Bare, Cory Doctorow writes that studios have not figured out how to offer a good selection of their movies online for people to purchase and download. The selection is very good on filesharing sites, however, but trying to legally purchase movies, assuming you can even find a movie you want, will mean higher prices, less choice, and more restrictions. Many older movies are not even available on either DVD or online through the big studios. The only way to watch some older films is to download them from people who have put older copies online. Read the whole article here.

In an infamous case that clearly illustrates the downsides to legitimately buying content, people who purchased Sony music CDs to play on their computers were forced to install a program embedded on the CDs that allowed Sony to control how users would consume that music. Worse, this program opened up users' computers to attacks by hackers.  After the ensuing outcry, Sony issued a patch that was supposed to mitigate the damage that had been done, but only made the problem worse. Sony ended up paying millions of dollars in fines and restitution. you can read about the whole sorry saga here.

People who downloaded the same music faced no such problems. The people who tried to do the right thing were the ones who were inconvenienced and harmed.

When the distribution system fails, a black market will arise.

Examples of this are numerous, and it is amazing that large content creators have not figured this out yet. One good example involves comic books. Glenn Hauman has an interesting article about a comic book story that was never printed. It was killed off and never released. Fans soon realized that this comic book series existed and the only way they were able to read it was by downloading it online. Read the article here.

The business model for studios and music companies requires them to have absolute control over how their products are used by consumers. This of course is increasingly unacceptable to consumers, who are used to taking their content with them wherever they go, and using it however they wish. As long as content creators continue to fight the wishes of their customers, they will have to contend with the filesharing whether they like it or not.

Island In The Stream - Three Rookers

Three Rookers Island is a small, semicircular island that has emerged within the last decade and has become its own thriving habitat for birds and other creatures. It is a popular destination for boaters during the summertime, as that is the only way to reach this wonderful little island. The day I was there with some friends of mine, there was no one else there. It is located between Anclote Key and Honeymoon Island near Tarpon Springs.

Above: a remarkable piece of drift wood which looks just like a serpent or dragon, complete with mouth and eyes. It is currently hanging in my house.

Three Rookers is one of the last natural islands on Florida's Suncoast and has become a thriving bird sanctuary. There are no docks, shelters, or facilities on the island, and the channel around the island is not dredged.

The island is patrolled by numerous organizations to protect the sensitive habitat.

Above left: a huge conch shell found in the surf. It was in the process of eating a sea urchin when it was found. The creature living inside looks bigger than the shell it lives in!

Below: the beach is littered with accumulations of dried seagrass, twigs and sticks which have washed up over the years. When viewed up close, it looks like an alien landscape. Without any sense of scale, the photo below could be a mountainous region somewhere.

Near a small tide pool, I found thousands of tiny fiddler crabs who were migrating from the protection of the mangroves to the tall grasses nearby. When they saw me coming, they raced back to the mangroves, crawling over themselves to get away.

When I hunkered down and kept very still, they no longer perceived me as a threat and begin to emerge from the mangroves. It was a miniature mass migration.

These are red-jointed uca-minax crabs, which have four pairs of legs and a carapace that is squared with rounded rear edges. Males have an oversized claw which is used to attract mates and to discourage rivals, while the claws of female fiddler crabs are small. They are quite common along the eastern seaboard and live in muddy and brackish water marshes and burrow into the sand to create shelter. For more information about these crabs, click HERE.

In the decades since Florida's inter-coastal tides have created this island, wildlife has slowly moved in, creating a thriving habitat for birds.