Monthly Archives: April 2007

atheist outreach and hypocrite hilarity

check out this awesome overpass/sidewalk art at yonkis.com — you have to scroll all the way to the right, and it’s not a flip photo so do it slowly enough to notice the homo sapiens-like creatures … at the shortest point of the wall, at about the 75% mark (L-to-R).

The pointer came from pharyngula, where they’ve also been discussing atheist outreach. Elsewhere in the blogosphere people have been wondering if posting flyers on cars in church parking lots is a good way to reach out to the faithful (the “parking lot challenge”) and what kinds of flyers would be good. I posted some of my thoughts in a comment, but to sum up: (a) flyers can come in all kinds of different information, and if you’re willing for 90% or more to be thrown away you could save the life or sanity of some unhappy teenager who *wants* rationality but doesn’t know how to find it; (b) lots of other places are good to pass out tidbits of reason: bus and train ads, newspaper inserts, inserts in bookstore books, hotel bibles; (c) anybody ever do “you’re welcome for the good deed” card?; and (d) what do you say when someone says “god bless you” and you want to be polite and friendly and brief, but corrective?

… And speaking of religious people: The “abstinence-only” promoter in the Bush Administration’s foreign aid department (aka the “AIDS czar”) resigned in embarrassment after getting caught on DC madam Jeane Palfrey’s list of prominent johns. (See WPost 4/28 and ABC 4/27.) Ha ha. Oh, my anger at BS thinly-veiled with sanctimony is rarely so well matched by my pleasure at hypocrisy revealed. My cup runneth over, but I tell you — the Bush administration has produced so many of these kinds of things that it’s kinda hard to keep up.

I anticipate many more such juicy stories once her client list (which is in the hands of prosecutors and ABC?) is published, and we know more names of people who sought “massage and sexual fantasy from college-educated women”. The irony of the abstinence-only AIDS czar being one of the first to go is rich though. It is Good to start the day with hypocrites brought low. I am in a happy, happy mood.

shaolin trademarks and copyright as generic for IP

In an SFgate story about conflicts between folks trying to take Shaolin practice in different directions, I spotted this:

In recent years, the main temple’s abbot, Shi YongXin, has tried to copyright the Shaolin name. He’s also been criticized for commercializing the faith. YongXin gave his approval to Ho’s venture in San Francisco.

Really? I thought. Tried to copyright the name? Surely they mean trademark …. A little googling found this China Daily article from a couple of years ago (2004/9/28). I quote in its entirety because virtually every single paragraph illustrates the wacky confusion:

Shaolin monks in hand-to-hand copyright battle
Updated: 2004-09-28 09:53

The monks of China’s Shaolin temple are not just good at kung fu but also increasingly agile at using copyright rules to protect their name from rip-offs, state media reported.

The 1,500 year-old temple, known as the cradle of China’s martial arts, recently set up the Henan Shaolin Temple Industrial Development Co., whose main purpose is to protect the temple’s intellectual property rights, Xinhua news agency said.

“Everyone just wants to make some profits from the name, totally regardless of the integral image of Shaolin Temple,” Shaolin abbot Shi Yongxin told the agency.

More than 1,000 brands containing “Shaolin” have been registered without the approval of the temple in the United States, Japan and Europe, Shi said.

Since its start, the new company has been engaged in feverish activity, registering nearly 100 Shaolin-related brands in China and has applied to register “Shaolin” brands in over 100 countries, Xinhua said.

A survey by the China Trademark and Patent Law Office found that many countries were competing to register their own trademarks of Shaolin or Shaolin temple, state media reported previously.

On the west coast of the United States alone, there are three Shaolin temples. In Europe, Shaolin temples can be found in Vienna and Budapest.

with a photo captioned:

A young monk of China’s Shaolin temple demonstrating his skills. The monks have increasingly been using copyright rules to protect their name from rip-offs. [AFP]

Further reading–it looks like this story has flurried every couple of years, 2002, 2004, 2006:
* The People’s Daily from 2002/9/25 had more information about the beginning of the trademark wars.
* The USA Today picked up the story around the same time.
* The BBC News on 2004/6/29
* 2004/6/2 a story at p2pnet.net
* Another 2006 piece from China Shaolin Temple itself gives their perspective.
* China Daily, 2006/10/19 had this insightful history:

Back in 1993, Shi Yongxin took a ham manufacturer to court for promoting the ham under the brand “Shaolin,” which he claimed constituted a trademark infringement. It was the first case on brand rights in China’s religious circles.

Recalling the lawsuit, Shi said, “a long time ago, communication and transportation were not as convenient as today, and products were circulated in a limited area, so trademark registration was not required. With globalization comes infringement. To protect the trademark, we have to register the brand ‘Shaolin.’ The registration is totally protective. ”

However, the Shaolin Temple brand is being taken advantage of by other businessmen. About 200 meters north of the temple, the local tourist bureau has built the Shaolin Temple Martial Arts School, and right across from that is a Zen institute that is backed by a salt company.

Many suspect such commercial aspirations will disturb the tranquility of the temple. Shi, however, believed such establishment is a result of the interplay between business and brand, likening Shaolin Temple to the American Disneyland, which is a brand as well as a business.

* Kung Fu Magazine had an interview with Shi Yongxin, Abbot of Shaolin temple:

GC: How is trademarking the name of Shaolin going?
Abbot: Recently, some businessmen and companies had been engaging in using the Shaolin name to further their product. This influenced the image of Shaolin culture in a negative way. Now Shaolin Temple is attending to this matter. Abuse of the Shaolin trademark will diminish the influence of Shaolin Temple and create misunderstandings of Shaolin in the public eye. Shaolin represents the best of traditional Chinese art in kung fu and Chan Buddhism. As we know, some products and services provided by these companies were outlawed by the rules of Buddhism. So we have begun to administrate the trademark of Shaolin, not for the sake of profit, just for the sake of preserving our culture and religion.

… This was an interesting search in its own right, but a couple of observations:
* You know, it’s not so easy to google for something + copyright, because every frickin’ thing on the Internet says “blah blah blah COPYRIGHT date by yadda yadda yadda”.
* This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed “copyright” being used synonymously for “intellectual property”. It’s as if the copyright trademark is itself being diluted.

* Every article has its own copyright date and they’re apparently being put in almost at random as part of website templates in some cases, the article in other cases, etc. For instance the 2002 USA Today article, which I found on 2007/4/29, had a “Copyright 2005 the Associated Press”. The Kung Fu Magazine article didn’t have a date on the article or on its copyright statement, but had an automatically generated “today’s date” in the header — so one might mistakenly read the article and think it was today. This is a problem for citations, of course, but it’s also a problem for orphan works issues in the far future. So if the dates on the works themselves are practically meaningless, then how is the future historian going to be able to tell when the 95-year corporate copyright term has expired? If we’re all relying on the overworked Internet Archive as our de facto copyright database then someone needs to give them like a bajillion dollars in a hurry so they can capture the whole Internet and do it every day.

the state of free wireless in boston

while I’ve been sad to see some cafes that previously offered free wireless moving to a pay model or restricting their network for other reasons, i’ve been seeing more and more free wireless popping up in other places.

today at a restaurant for lunch there were three: one called “[person's name]‘s computer”; one for the name of the restaurant; and one called “fuck comcast”. heh.

tentacles of copyright paranoia

Copyright paranoia is, truly, everywhere. Reading a NYT article about websites that track the Iraq war dead, I noticed this:

The Iraq Page (iraq.pigstye.net) is the obsession of Tom Willett, a software developer from Bloomington, Ind. The site includes a single news account for each United States service member killed in combat, with a fluttering American flag next to a photograph, and room for comments. At last count, there were 3,579 individuals memorialized from the coalition forces, 3,313 from the United States.

“I copy most of the articles, because I know the articles won’t be there in a few months,” he said. “I don’t have the copyright. I steal it from everybody, and I don’t care who knows about it.” The site, which Mr. Willett said had 2,000 to 3,000 unique visitors a day and 20 to 30 new comments a day, has never been asked to take down an article.

He automatically thinks about copyright, decides he’s stealing and that he’s going to commit civil disobedience because of the importance of the issue. Where is fair use in this equation? The NYT writers simply report his concerns, without explaining to the reader that this would be an arguable fair use issue.

if the evidence doesn’t fit, ignore it

Years ago, my partner read some of Nicholas Wade’s NYT articles and shook her head at the shallowness of his analysis. It hasn’t gotten any better since. The NYT is running a lot of articles right now about sex, gender, and sexuality, and Nicholas Wade’s latest article is crap. He writes like the answers have been found, and, surprise, they’re exactly what people a hundred years ago thought, too. Conflicting evidence? Why bother? This is the New York Times, not actual science.

Sigh. Remember Gina Kolata? She was good. Why can’t we have good science writing again? (In fairness, the single line from the Wade article that annoyed me the most wasn’t Wade’s, but a quote from J. Michael Bailey: “If you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, how strong could any psychosocial effect be?” Indeed. Because when I think about how to raise a gay man the first option that occurs to me is cutting off his penis. Jackass.)

The video is also annoying: My invisible lesbian partner and I sat with open-jawed amazement as they talked about straight boys, gay boys, straight girls, and … let’s move on to another topic altogether, the sweaty t-shirt experiment (No, not the menstrual cycle-synching armpit sniffing experiment; the women sniffing men’s sweaty tshirts that shows that women may develop even emotional attachments to men with different immune systems.) So a total fluff piece with little useful content.

Natalie Angier’s article on sexual desire, as ever, is much better. (I especially liked the quote from the psychologist in her 50s: “Listening to Noam Chomsky always turns me on.” I hear ya, sister.) Angier treats some of the same subjects as Wade, but much more reasonably. Wade reports that scientists have found X, we now know Y, and other very definitive statements of Objective Scientific Truth. He describes the experiment in the terms of the conclusion, thus making it appear foregone, unquestionable, certain. By contrast, Angier describes experiments in detail, pulling out the findings, and then labeling the assumptions and hypotheses. She reports the uncertainties as well as the findings and (tentative) conclusions. The reader has a chance to understand the experiment and draw their own conclusions, and compare those to the conclusions of the scientist or commentator or writer of the article. … And she’s not just a better science writer, she’s actually a better writer. Her prose is actually enjoyable to read.

DRM-less online music sales and other good news

Well, Steve Jobs certainly looks prescient, what with EMI dropping DRM for its iTunes sales. Why do I suppose they were already in negotiations when Steve Jobs wrote his editorial?

Never mind, it’s still good news. (As is the decision from the Supreme Court on EPA’s responsibility to regulate greenhouse gases, a case that worried me. Yes, Virginia, if masses of scientific evidence show that human emissions are harming the environment, then the Environmental Protection Agency needs to deal with it.)