Canadian Culture: Special Delivery

Although this isn’t free culture, it’s Canadian culture. I can’t watch videos on the NFB site because it uses a proprietary player. Fortunately for me (and all free software users), NFB makes its video available on YouTube as well. Video on YouTube is accessible with free software, and although it doesn’t license to share it is possible to embed the video here.

This is one of my all time favourite Canadian winter films. It was commissioned by Canada Post, and dates back to the time Canada Post was invested in Canada and had a sense of humour. Although it is a cartoon, it does contain mature subject matter Viewer discretion is advised.

Enjoy this 1978 Oscar Winning NFB short directed by Eunice Macaulay & John Weldon.

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no cyber-censorship, please

Today on Identi.ca I said:

When I was young, freedom wasn’t such a big issue.
Life experience has shown me how really important freedom is.

That is so true. Freedom is important to me on many levels: as a citizen, as a parent, and as a writer.
But the Internet is ultimately a series of tools:   hardware and software strung together. The problem is,
of course, that tools can generally be used for good or ill. Which is why we must all strive to ensure it stays free. That means all of us, not just programmers but all of the users.

World day against cyber-censorship

Reporters without Borders are very concerned with freedom. Naturally. It’s hard to do a good job of reporting without freedom, which is why Reporters without Borders is holding the 3rd annual:

World day against cyber-censorship

Visit the Reporters without Borders World day against cyber-censorship webpage.   The site has been mirrored to allow netizens in blacked out countries to access this information at http://12march2011.org/en/

The site has goodies such as a map showing global geographic boundaries incidence of cyber censorship and the pièce de résistance the 2011 The Enemies of the Internet list.

I have to admit I was more than a little surprised to find the United States absent after all their efforts to take out WikiLeaks. The fact that the United States is not on the list is most likely due to the strong freedom advocacy offered by freedom fighting organizations like the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Public Knowledge (PK), and KEI (Knowledge Ecology International).

Twitter tightens its grip

Ironically, today readwriteweb brings word about Twitter’s decision to cut out 3rd party developers. Existing apps will be allowed to continue… on probabation. Last week my favorite writing live chat on Twitter didn’t work because none of the various third party apps people use to make live chat work could log in. Some of the regular participants gave it up because Twitter does not lend itself to live chat. In the light of this new announcement, the chat problem probably resulted from changes made to the Twitter api to discourage 3rd party apps.

My personal recommendation is that no step is to small to be the first step into freedom.

If you use Twitter, set up an account on Identi.ca.

Setting up on Identi.ca is very much like setting up on Twitter, and you can link Identica to Twitter to stay in contact easily enough. Identi.ca will automatically send your notices and local “@” replies to Twitter, as well as subscribe to your Twitter friends on Identica. [Hint: it is best if you can use the same @name on both services.]

At least for now.

Twitter can pull the plug on that at any time. That is one of the biggest problems with proprietary web platforms… some one else owns it, controlling your access, as well as having access to all of your information. Proprietors like Facebook (or Darth Vader) retain total control, and can alter the rules in a flash.

identi.ca logo
identi.ca logo

Unlike Twitter, Identica is a service that makes up the central part of a growing federated network of microbloggers using the open source Statusnet software. Because the number of individual hostings of StatusNet is growing all the time, Identica far freer than Twitter in much the same way that a federated network of mirrors allowed WikiLeaks to survive the onslaught. You can set up your own, or connect to Identi.ca on their site or download the free version to use on your own. I strongly recommend that anyone concerned with net freedom should set up their microblog home on Identica.

personal security

For some excellent ideas on how to protect yourself, I recommend reading Identi.ca netizen @jimmorgan’s blog about his foray into security: Tor, XMPP, GPG, Internet security

copyright

Copyright is another incredibly important issue, particularly as the copyright maximalists are pushing for laws that allow copyright to be used as a tool of censorship. For some insight in why this is a problem in the here and now, I highly recommend watching the important film RiP: A Remix Manifesto I have much more to say about copyright, but the main thing is that it is an issue that we need to rethink. Allowing corporations to impose laws about how we access our own culture is both disturbing and detrimental to the common good.

freedom

I have been compiling lists of free culture and Creative Commons options available in the sidebar as I come to them. If you find any such links that you’d like to share, please forward them to me. Allowing corporations to control our freedom may in fact be worse than allowing governments to do so. Big Brother may in fact be wearing mouse ears. We must stand up for our rights, and encourage others to do the same.

We all must do whatever we can to fight for our online rights.

[and now back to editing/proofing my novel]

Why CanCon Hurts Canadian Culture [part 2]

Canadian Film & Television

Many Canadian actors, writers and directors have established a considerable presence in the American movie and television business since the very beginning.

pictured in "Canadian Women in Film"
Canadian Mary Pickford was “America’s Sweetheart”

Talented Canadians have been migrating to Hollywood to make movies for as long as there have been movies. Naturally. If you wanted to be in pictures, that’s where you had to go.

They called her “America’s Sweetheart,” for her movie acting, but she was also a hard headed business woman who was producing her own films early on, going on to co-found United to ensure she maintained her autonomy. Toronto born Mary Pickford, was actually a Canadian girl.

Over time things have changed and today films are made all over the world.

International Acclaim

The National Film Board of Canada became a world leader in documentary film making. NFB documentaries and short films have won many Oscars over the years.

The Sheridan College Animation Program offered at the Oakville, Ontario Campus has long been considered one of the best animation schools in the world – and in fact the prime source of Disney animators. Home grown animation companies like Toronto’s Nelvana produce and export a large proportion of children’s programming globally.

The innovative IMAX film system, now available around the world, was created and developed by the Canadian IMAX Corporation.

On the Home Front

It has traditionally been difficult for Canadian movies and television programming to compete with American fare. Partly because so much Canadian talent has flowed south of the border, but Cancon rules have made it worse by engendering a lack of confidence in Canadian productions .

Initially the fledgling Canadian movie and TV industry was behind in technical expertise. Remember how 1970’s Canadian television programming and films were conspicuous because of the tinny sound? But by the 1980’s the Canadian film and television industry was undergoing change. Thanks in part to the exchange rate which kept the Canadian dollar lower than the American dollar, budget conscious American productions began flowing north across the border.

Today the world acknowledges Canada as the new Hollywood North, boasting a qualified film & TV workforce and decent production facilities. No less a personage than The Terminator er California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to fight to keep American productions out of Canada (and coincidentally in California).

Night Heat title frame from series opening credit sequence

Although it was a successful prime time Canadian Television series, Night Heat was actually a Canadian/American co-production. Great care was taken to place the series in an unspecified North American city in an attempt to make the series acceptable in both countries. In fact, the only North American City that Night Heat could not have taken place in was Toronto, since in one episode the heroes travel to Toronto for a CN Tower chase scene. Of course in reality Toronto was where the series was actually made.

Economically the Canadian film industry may be holding its own, but that isn’t the biggest problem. Although American driven Canadian productions may employ Canadians they are American productions creating American culture. Even when working on Canadian soil it seems Canadians contribute to American culture.

Due South Title Graphic

Due South was a CBS/CTV co-production. Paul Gross played the incredibly principled Mountie Constable Benton Fraser stationed in Chicago in this dramatic series with a decidedly humorous bent.

Wolf and mountie, the Canadian stars of Due South: Benton and Diefenbaker

Due South was set in Chicago, and Fraser frequently wears the distinctive RCMP red serge uniform in the series, where he works with Chicago police detective Ray Vecchio. Although Fraser and his pet wolf Diefenbaker are usually the only nominal Canadian in the show, there is never any question that Fraser is the hero of the piece.

Although American audiences liked the show, CBS decided to pull out. But because it was a big hit in Canada and abroad financing was found to keep it running for a few more years.

The original Due South story editor, David Shore, went on to create the wildly successful American series House M.D.

House (Hugh Laurie) stares balefully up at the happy face balloon he hold the string to.

Due South series creator Paul Haggis went on to win Oscars for writing and directing the 2004 film Crash.

Haggis clutching Oscars in each fist, stands in front of a 6 foot Oscar

I wrote a bit about the Canadian talent-drain in copycon: the continuing saga.

As with musicians, Wikipedia also has a Wikipedia: List of Canadian Actors.

But it isn’t just actors, there are a great many successful Canadians working behind the scenes in Hollywood as well.

Writers and Directors are just as likely to head for Hollywood as actors are. Naturally there are also lists of Wikipedia: List of Canadian Writers and a Wikipedia: List of Canadian Directors.

Bon Cop Bad Cop poster

Why do so many talented Canadians flock to the States?

Triplets of Belleville poster

Quebec has long had a rich Francophone dramatic film and television tradition precisely because of its distinct language and culture.

This most probably accounts for the fact that many of the best Canadian feature films like The Triplets of Belleville, Bon Cop Bad Cop and Maurice Richard [English Title: The Rocket] and Polytechnique have come out of Quebec.

Quest for Fire, an excellent film set before language as we know it existed was made in Canada.

Maurice Richard  poster

Canadian director Ivan Reitman’s hit film Meatballs was his last Canadian feature before disappearing into Hollywood to make movies like Ghostbusters, Legal Eagles and Twins.   Sometimes Canadians get pretty good English language feature films, like Passchendaele, or Nurse.Fighter.Boy.

Passchendaele poster

An interesting Canadian film I’m looking forward to seeing is Before Tomorrow, the first feature film made by the Women’s Inuit film Collective Arnait Video Productions. I was very impressed with the trailer on the Genie Award site

Canada is sadly in the position of having a single first run movie theatre distribution network for the whole of Canada. Which means there is no competition at all. It’s a monopoly. When a popular Canadian movie like Passchendaele or Bon Cop Bad Cop is released, there is little chance of becoming a blockbuster because these films don’t get the opportunity. Their Canadian theatrical runs are very short.

Interestingly enough, there are no “Cancon” regulations for movie theatres. Particularly since we’re down to a monopoly, wouldn’t this be the perfect place to insist on Canadian content?

Arrow in Flight among the clouds
Avro Arrow: Painting by Lance Russwurm

Canadian television has been producing increasingly good television fare. Like the CBC mini-series The Arrow. Series like Slings and Arrows which has inspired a Brazillian version, Less Than Kind and 18 to Life.

Title graphic for comedy series Less Than Kind

Canadians are capable of creating good movies and television. Why has there been so little of it?

How much of the problem comes down to perception. In spite of all of this evidence to the contrary, Canadians don’t think Canadian television or movies are generally very good. After all, if Canadian film and television was good, there wouldn’t be any need for Canadian Content regulations.

maple leaf leaning left

This perception first makes it hard to raise the money needed to create television or movies, and again to distribute them.

The advent of the Internet has opened up new distribution venues for Canadian film and video. This can only bode well for Canadian Culture.

Great Canadian TV Series: Less Than Kind

A Canadian Movie I really want to see: Nurse.Fighter.Boy.

[Novel permitting, I hope to publish the conclusion of this article Why CanCon Hurts Canadian Culture [part 3] next week.]

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Image Credits:
Mary Pickford photo in the public domain, original made available from Library and Archives Canada: Celebrating Women’s Achievements Mary Pickford photo © Public Domain

Free Culture, Copyright and Open Video

StopUBB logoUsually I deal with highly politicized computer issues in my StopUBB blog, which has evolved from only fighting against Canadian implementation of Usage Based Billing but has spread out to fight against insidious secret copyright treaties like A.C.T.A. while trying to educate ordinary people about the related issues of Net Neutrality and Internet Freedom.

Those who are attempting to subvert the Internet so they can control and leash it have long been using copyright as an excuse to do these things. I have been learning a lot about computer issues through StopUBB research. But there are many people who have been grappling with the future of the Internet long before I had a clue that there were even issues.

One of these people is Lawrence Lessig a big proponent of “Free Culture” and reduced copyright. Not only was Lessig one of the a founder of Creative Commons licensing movement, he was also involved in the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Harvard‘s Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Lawrence Lessig delivering a lecture

Copyright symbol with maple leaf

in the wind is my personal blog. Since I’m a writer a big part of my life is writing, so when I write about any aspect of writing it goes here. So even though copyright plays an important part in StopUBB issues, this is where I write about it from a reader and writer’s point of view.

twitter logo

Yesterday I learned from Twitter that there was going to be a LIVE! Wireside Chat with Lawrence Lessig at Harvard Law School I played hooky from writing Inconstant Moon to tune in, although I only caught the last part of his lecture, the main thrust was that the bad guys can look after themselves, its time that the good guys (that’s you and me, pal) stepped up to the plate to stop corruption and make government start working for the people again.

After the lecture there was a question and answer session with questions provided in a live Twitter feed which dealt with culture, copyright and ReMix.

These are some of the Lessig quotes tweeted by audience
which in itself made the lecture into a remix:
shapah “we need a culture that makes it as easy to hack hardware as it does content” #wireside #lessig

PPirataMx Necesitamos una cultura que permita “hackear” dispositivos de la misma forma que se “hackea” el contenido. #lessig #wireside

EveBottando “There’s something tone deaf about Apple. Their sharing site is Me.com..whatdyamean Me.com – it should be We.com.” #wireside

shapah Brazil again! points of light – “they teach kids to tear machines down and rebuild them” #wireside

ericschnell RT @sameerverma: “Stallman was right to call it free software” – lessig #wireside

ezufelt #wireside chat w/ @lessig was good, disappointing that it was not captioned and that videos were not described. #accessibility

shapah non-commercial CC licensing is an experiment to enable this new way of thinking #wireside #lessig

shapah “free culture is the right way to think about – setting the right boundaries, setting the widest spread” #wireside

EveBottando “Britney Spears model – produce and control culture…another culture that doesn’t limit…depends on building and sharing freely” #wireside

blogdiva RT @dsearls: @Lessig: “The government has produced the least efficient property system known to man.” At #wireside

shapah “how long do copyright terms need to be?” 21 years? #lessig would settle for 50 as long as it couldn’t be extended #wireside

moon Larry #Lessig “never should you be allowed to extend an existing copyright” #wireside

After the Q&A concluded, I learned a bit about the The Open Video Alliance, the group who put on this lecture. Of course, my learning curve in all this is enormous; today is the first time that I had even heard of them. Open Video held a contest for 60 second films to explain and illustrate the idea of open video to raise awareness of the importance of this cultural art form. They screened the winning videos, but this one was my favorite.

Teacher Raffaella Traniello holds up some movie making tools
Raffaella Traniello is an excellent teacher.   With simplicity and breathtaking clarity her video makes the point:

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX

 

You can find the other open video submissions available for download at http://contest.openvideoalliance.org/?l=en

Visit the site and check out the films online. You are free to download them in a variety of formats from OGG to MPEG4.   Raffaella’s film is in Italian but there are English subtitles available– the words are important– for mono-lingual anglophones like myself.

I could not figure out how to embed the Raffaella’s Traniello video here, so I took a peek at YouTube to see if it was there. I didn’t find it, instead I found this interview. Although I don’t speak a word of Italian, I loved the opportunity to see some of the films this amazing teacher has made with her students. You go girl.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc2WX06Ovzc

It seems that videos posted on YouTube can be easily embedded here in my WordPress blog, but videos found in other places, like The Open Video Alliance and the Canada’s NFB (National Film Board of Canada) can not be posted here, even though it would not violate any copyright laws to do so.

As if by magic my friend Malcolm sent me a link to this amazing live interactive ReMix:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k&annotation_id=annotation_72265&feature=iv

I am curious now as to whether license fees were paid to use the music in this performance art.

I think it was Lawrence Lessig who suggested that copyright law needs to be straightforward enough that children can use any cultural material they are exposed to in any way with impunity.

Unfortunately what is happening today is the heavy handed application if new IP laws that serve to frighten many educators and schools away from using these technologies to help educate our children. After all, this is a world of D.M.C.A. takedowns and A.C.T.A.

And that’s not right.