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"Fucking Brilliant"

"This is really, really fucking brilliant." It's what U2's Bono said during this year's Golden Globe Awards, broadcast on NBC television, and what the Parents Television Council and others filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about, claiming the singer's remark was an obscenity that violated broadcast indecency rules. The FCC, however, ruled in early October that the statement failed to meet their standards for indecency, which the commission defines as "language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities."

In their statement, the FCC concluded: "The word 'f---ing' my be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities. Rather, the performer used the word 'f---ing' as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activities or organs is not within the scope of the commission's prohibition of indecent program content."

Fucking brilliant, really.

Music to Break Your Legs To

Ridgefield, Washington resident Toni Lynn Lycan will be using the handicapped parking space at the grocer for the next few months while she recovers from two broken legs -- the result of losing her temper with a downstairs neighbor over the volume level of music being played.

It seems Lycan became upset with Allen Haines' loud music, initially yelling at her downstairs neighbor to turn down his stereo. Haines clever reply was to bang a broom on his ceiling while continuing to rock out. The situation so infuriated Lycan that, in response to Haines broom tapping, she jumped up an down on her floor as hard as she could, subsequently breaking both her legs below the kneecaps and not realizing the extent of her injuries until officers arrived at the apartment complex to investigate other residents' complaints of Lycan and Haines' neighborly tit-for-tats.

File under: not-so-fucking brilliant.

Classical Music Money Magnet

Researchers at England's University of Leicester announced recently that classical music encourages restaurant diners to spend more because the music makes them feel more affluent. In a test that was conducted over a three week period in a Leicester restaurant, when classical music was played diners parted with $40 a head on average. When music by Britney Spears was played, restaurant goers spent $36.75. No background music: $35.

"Where people were really spending the money was on the luxury items, such as starters, desserts and coffees," said Adrian North, the psychology lecturer who carried out the tests. "If you hear classical music, it has got all sorts of connotations of sophistication, affluence and wealth and it makes you feel a bit posh. In a restaurant, this has the effect of making you spend a bit more money."

So it really is Britney against the music...and the eating and spending tastes of restaurant goers everywhere.

John Lennon Rolls Over in Grave

Scheduled for the 2004-2005 season, produced by Edgar Lansbury, directed by Don Scardino, written by Eric Overmyer, approved by widow Yoko Ono, and tentatively titled The Lennon Project, John Lennon is finally headed for the bright lights of Broadway.

"Over the past two decades, I have been experiencing the feedback from the world to John's life, statements and music," explained Ono. "I realized what John had meant to the world. He was a catalyst who brought down the hypocrisy and the old world establishments by saying 'Gimme Some Truth.' What we present on stage should again give people insight, encouragement, inspiration and fun, so they can go on with their lives with some assurance and hope."

The musical will be based around some 30 songs from Lennon's post-Beatles catalog, with the performance exploring the "turbulent times" of the 1960s and '70s. "His message of love and peace is very, very important, especially now," said Ono.

How exactly that message of love and peace has to do with a major Broadway performance has yet to be explained. Lennon was reported to be heard groaning from somewhere in the great beyond.

Gropenator Über Alles

Dramarama vocalist/guitarist John Easdale has recorded a new version of the Dead Kennedys' "California Über Alles," substituting Jello Biafra's lyrics with some of his own to reflect his embarrassment and dissatisfaction with the recent California gubernatorial recall election, which ended up putting Arnold "Movie Hero Ain't the Same as Real Life Hero" Schwarzenegger into office. The song is a blistering indictment of Schwarzenegger's politics and personality, while still keeping true the musical and political sentiment that fueled the original.

The song can be downloaded here.

Easdale's re-tooled lyrics are as follows:

Vote for me on Tuesday
I am Governor Arnold S.
I'll soon clean up this mess
I have inherited

I'm jingling all the way
from the Southland to the Bay
I'll govern all of you
Your kids will all lift weights in school

California über alles
Über alles California

The Golden State is getting worse
Need Mr. Universe
I am a movie star
and drive the biggest, dumbest car

This hero always wins
Conveniently forgets his sins
Jumpin from the master race
and always wears a happy face

California über alles
Über alles California

Here comes 2004
Knock knock on your front door
It's my very own secret police
come to pick up your ugly niece

March quietly to the camp
You'd make a lovely lamp
Don't worry it's just a shower
for your clothes here's a pretty flower

Body builder's in control
100 percent natural
Say goodbye you lousy pest
if you mess with Governor S.

California über alles
Über alles California

RIAA Continues Slash and Burn

It wouldn't be a month of news without the Recording Industry Association of America announcing that it was trying a new way to litigate against its consumers. In mid-October the RIAA announced its intention to file a new round of lawsuits against 204 people it claimed were illegally trading music online. But unlike their previous public relations debacle (where the RIAA filed suit against 261 people they alleged were illegally sharing music), this time around the heavy for music's major labels is sending out sternly worded letters of warning to suspected infringers in advance of any lawsuits, giving the potential litigants ten days to settle up and avoid a formal lawsuit.

Said RIAA president Cary Sherman, "In light of the comments we have heard, we want to go the extra mile and offer illegal file sharers an additional chance to work this out, short of legal action."

In sending out the preliminary letters the RIAA is hoping to avoid the embarrassing situation encountered with the last round of lawsuits, where many of the previous litigants (which included a 12-year-old girl) only discovered they were being sued after news reporters contacted them directly. In that group of 261, several complained they were falsely accused. The latest to come forward is 65-year-old grandmother Sarah Ward, who the RIAA said used Kazaa to share illegally traded music. The only problem is that Kazaa runs exclusively on Windows and Ward exclusively uses a Macintosh computer. The RIAA ended up dropping its suit against Ward. Insert sound of forehead slap here.

Downloading: Believe the Hype?

In other "fucking brilliant" downloading news, in an interview with Inside Digital Media, Coleman Music Research Vice President Warren Kurtzman discussed a recently finished extensive survey on consumer reactions to the RIAA lawsuits by his company, in which they found out that people are downloading less, 99 cents is the most a consumer is willing to pay for downloading a single song, and only 14 percent of those who download music are interested in doing so in a legal fashion.

The entire interview can be listened to here. [Warning: this is an audio interview that installs browser software for playback.]

Students Develop Download Alternative

And in our last bit of "fucking brilliant" downloading news, two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a way to share music with fellow students without placing themselves in the crosshairs of a lawsuit by the music industry (although it will probably earn their wrath). Josh Mandel and Keith Winstein developed a project called LAMP (Library Access to Music) which works by streaming music through MIT's cable television network. Since it's cable, the transmission is analog and not digital -- meaning that the quality is on par with FM radio and not CD, and because it isn't an exact copy it changes how the licenses for its broadcast are handled. Since many universities are freely or cheaply given analog broadcast licenses similar to radio station licenses, they are only required to pay the songwriters for songs broadcast, not the record labels.

"They've basically managed to cut the record labels out of the equation altogether," said Fred Von Lohmann, Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer. "I think they've managed to thread the needle."

LAMP works by students going to a web page and selecting one of 16 channels, which they're given exclusive control of for 80 minutes. The student selects from a compiled list of songs from 3,500 CDs, and that music is then played back on the cable channel selected. Even though one person controls a specific channel for that period of time, anyone can listen in on what's being played back.

Mandel and Winstein built the system using part of a $25 million grant from Microsoft. They were able to fill their catalog by purchasing MP3s of 3,500 CDs (at $8 a piece) from Seattle's Loudeye company (who were authorized to sell them from the National Music Publishers Association), and claim that other schools could easily set up the same file sharing network at a cost of about $40,000 -- all legally.

"I hope the record industry takes note and realizes this is a whole lot more promising than suing people," says Von Lohmann. "The students get access to a broad array of music, and the copyright owners get paid. This is where we should all be heading."

After reading a description of the project, the RIAA declined to comment.

Get Well Soon, Jack Bruce

Get well soon, Jack Bruce, former bassist for Cream, who is currently recovering from a near-fatal liver transplant performed on September 19th. Diagnosed with liver cancer this past summer, Bruce suffered complications after transplant surgery when his body rejected the new liver. His kidneys failed and an infection set in. A statement from Bruce's family through his record label, Sanctuary Records, read: "After being very critical for a period in which we almost lost him, Jack is now making a successful recovery."

Best wishes to Bruce for a speedy recovery.

Rest in Peace, Elliott Smith

Rest in peace, Elliott Smith, who died of a single self-inflicted stab wound on October 21st. He was 34. A modern day Nick Drake in both heart and song who, at times, struggled through both addiction and depression, Smith rose to widespread public acclaim with his song "Miss Misery," which appeared in Gus Van Sant's film Good Will Hunting, and which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1998. Smith released two albums following the nomination, 1998's XO and 2000's Figure 8, both on DreamWorks Records, and was working on a third, tentatively titled From a Basement on a Hill.

Before signing with DreamWorks, Smith released three independent albums, 1994's Roman Candle (Cavity Search), 1995's eponymous release and 1997's Either/Or (both on Kill Rock Stars). During the early '90s, Smith played in Portland, Oregon's post-punk outfit Heatmiser, who released three albums between 1993 and 1996 (all highly recommended).

Smith's family has established a trust fund whose proceeds benefit the Elliott Smith Foundation for Abused Children. Monetary donations can be addressed to:

Elliott Smith Memorial Fund
2658 Griffith Park Blvd. #195
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Travel in peace, Elliott.

Quote of the Month

"The mechanisms of music, how and why it affects us the way it does, are still mystical even to a cynical older record producer like myself. Anyone who denies the depth and power of this medium has simply forgotten, in the face of the relentless Philistine argument, that all things can be commoditized regardless of their sacred origins -- that all music is worth exactly what the RIAA says it is." -Todd Rundgren.

-Craig Young
Editor-in-Chief (or so they keep insisting)

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