The Null Device


The Skeptic's Dictionary, an encyclopædia of fringe beliefs, bizarre ideas and logical fallacies (and a few sensible ideas too). If you were wondering about therapeutic trepanation, the Hollow Earth theory, or identifying vinyl records by sight or that hundredth-monkey phenomenon the true believer in your life keeps citing to show how pitifully limited science is, and thus justify (Creationism/urine therapy/their telepathic poodle's past-life experiences), it's all here, along with the skinny on what's really going on.

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And more on the recording industry's systematic defrauding of artists, with Moses "Confessions of a Record Producer" Avalon's reports from recording industry hearings in the US: (via bOING bOING)

1) By contract, artists are prohibited from showing royalty statements to third parties. Normally this would not include their managers, lawyers, consultants, or others who could aid them in getting paid, but apparently this is not necessarily the case. Senator Kevin Murray, leading the initiative for artists' rights, claimed the that Cary Sherman, Chief Counsel for the RIAA himself, said to him in an interview, that RIAA members (the major labels) would sue any artist that broke ranks and shared information with the Committee. This claim was rejected by Sherman but supported by others in the room. Don Henley, among them, outwardly dared his record company to sue him for bringing royalty statements to the hearing. He presented his most recent royalty statement for "Hell Freezes Over," which showed the panel that even though his contract called for a no more than a 10% "reserve" on sales of records shipped, Universal Music had held back more than that for eleven pay periods (roughly under three years) and that, even though his contract calls for no free goods in Europe, they had deducted $87,000 in free goods charges to Europe.

And these mafiosi are the highly moral figures who want to put anti-copying chips in our computers and MP3 players?

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An article giving details of how recording companies systematically defraud artists. (via

Imagine you're an Australian artist. You signed a contract more than 20 years ago when you were under age. You were getting a royalty rate for singles of 5%... but it was only calculated on 8% of what you actually sold because we're talking singles here. Forget about the fact that your music has been used on countless compilations, licensed by your 'parent' record label. Forget about the fact that you have asked for years about the status of your royalties and the executives at the label have constantly rebuffed you.
Imagine that one of the top executives at the label, when confronted with the inequities of this situation and knowing you are owed money, not only refused to deal with you but told staff to ignore you and like other artists seeking royalties, you'd go away. They always do.
Here's another artist. They are owed about $20,000 from their hits in 1968. 34 years ago. The record company knows it. They haven't informed the artist. They know where the artist lives. The attitude of the man in control of this is why tell them if they don't know and if they want to sue us, fine, let them. But they can't sue us if they don't know. And if we don't tell them, how will they know?

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Looks like NaNoWriMo is rolling around again in just under a month. (And no, I won't be participating; given that I'll spend part of November being rained on in Britain, for one.)

I was thinking that there should be something for less ambitious writers; call it PicoWriMo, if you will. The rules are: every day for a month you write a word and at the end you have a free-verse poem or a (very) short story.

On, and another thing: my cat turned 1 today. Happy birthday, Fantod.

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The International Criminal Court is strangled at birth; the EU's member states will exempt Americans from war crimes prosecution. (Note that this doesn't apply to US lackeys, so British and Australian troops fighting Bush's wars can still be tried. Which is more incentive for Australia to sign a bilateral mutual-exemption treaty with the US.) I wonder how much this has to do with veterans of Central American interventions rising to power in the US.

But German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the EU compromise was signficant. ``The Milosevices and Pinochets of tomorrow will be brought to justice,'' he told reporters.

Though the future Kissingers and Calleys can breathe easily, knowing that their God-given liberty is not under threat. It seems that American citizenship is the salient criterion there.


US vows to block weapons inspections in Iraq unless the UN passes a resolution authorising an invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile Bush, who has apparently been studying the writings of Hassan al-Sabbah, has stated that the cost of one bullet in the back of the right head would be much cheaper than a war. Truly, a most exemplary show of grandmotherly kindness.