Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Repost: Open Letter to the RIAA - by Morgan Shillingburg

An Open Letter to the RIAA
by Morgan Shillingburg

Dear RIAA,

I've been seeing your posters around campus saying things like "Illegally downloading copyrighted files is STEALING!" and "Jail House Rock!" on them. While impeccably eye-catching, well laid-out, and amazing at getting your point across, I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, you're missing something.

Your main argument against illegal music downloading is that it has cut into CD sales. Did you ever stop to think that maybe it is YOU that has crippled your own industry? Hear me out for a second.

Seriously, RIAA, have you turned on the radio anytime recently? Have you heard the "amazing" singles from the musical "artists" whose albums we're supposed to buy? I know it's hard to pick up in print, but the quotation marks used in the last sentence were there for sarcastic effect.

Laffy Taffy. Fergelicious. Bringin' Sexy Back. Don't Cha. This is Why I'm Hot. Milkshake.

Perhaps I'm being too subtle, RIAA. Let's look at some lyrics from the chorus of Akon's hit, "Smack That".

"I feel you creepin', I can see you from my shadow.
Wanna jump up in my Lamborghini Gallardo.
Maybe go to my place and just kick it, like Taebo.
And possibly bend you over.
Look back and watch me
smack that, all on the floor,
smack that, give me some more,
smack that, 'till you get sore
smack that, oooh."

Are you SERIOUS, RIAA? "Kick it, like Taebo?" And you expect us to drop an Andrew Jackson for his album? For the same amount of money, I could spend all day Tuesday watching We Are Marshall, Pursuit of Happiness, Happy Feet, Dream Girls, and Smokin' Aces twice each at Cinema Theatre.

So go ahead, talk about how we're hindering the amount of money your "artists" make. Do you know what the word "art" means? Well, according to Dictionary.com, art is "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."

I don't think Akon's masterpiece, "Smack That" is of more than ordinary significance, and I wouldn't use the words "expressive" or "aesthetic" to describe it. Yes, it's catchy, but I think somewhere along the lines of your money-grubbing marketing schemes, you took the "Muse" out of "Music."

Meanwhile, the highest paid musical tour of 2006 was the Rolling Stones, which made $138.5 million from 39 shows. I know, RIAA. I was surprised it wasn't that prodigious virtuoso, Fergie Ferg, either. When was the last time they had a hit?

And, I'm sorry, but it's hard to believe your sob stories of how much we're financially crippling the artists themselves when the great composer Mims has lyrics like the following in his songs:

"I’m in there driving cars
Push them off the lot
I’m into shutting stores down so that I can shop"

Poor, poor Mims. If I download music illegally, he won't be able to shut down stores so he can shop anymore. My heart goes out to you, Mims. Here's my money. No, I think downloading music illegally will require musicians to put out better albums.

And it's kind of funny how you get upset when we don't buy CDs, but when you sign a record deal, you cheat the artists. I know how they work, but how come you don't tell the masses?

Here's what PerformerMag.com has to say about record deals:

"Most major labels still offer a royalty that is a percent of Standard Retail List Price (SRLP), usually ranging from 10-15%, sometimes depending on whether the deal is “all-in” (artist pays producer royalty out of artist’s royalty). Major labels then deduct for packaging expenses, free goods), and other items, and also list a multitude of situations where those royalties will be reduced (i.e. foreign sales, record clubs, etc.) (http://www.performermag.com/IndieVSMaj orContracts.php)."

This means they say you'll pay artists 10-15% of all album sales and then make them pay for a bunch of other stuff. How is this fair?

Not only that, but Janis Ian, a Grammy award-winning songwriter who had a bunch of hits from the 1960s and 1970s explains the following on her website (http://www.janisian.com/article-intern et_debacle.html):

"A label can shelve your project, then extend your contract by one more album because what you turned in was 'commercially or artistically unacceptable'. They alone determine that criteria."

This means you have the musician's wallets and souls in a vice, don't you, RIAA? Funny how this information doesn't get released to the press and never makes your posters. I'd call that propaganda, wouldn't you?

And, according to that same article, America is the only country Ian is aware of that doesn't pay artists royalties for their live performances. What's up with that, RIAA?

Not only THAT, but some of the highest paid musical acts- Dave Matthews Band and Phish- have made their money off of illegal music file sharing. People who hear the illegal versions are more likely to come out to the concerts.

So, how about this, RIAA. Take your posters around campus and shove it. I don't want to see any more of your mind-swindling propaganda. Work for our money. Sign thoughtful poets with instruments who actually have something to say to your labels. Otherwise, the days of singer/songwriters and bands that change people's lives are long gone. D4L's Laffy Taffy is not the "Stairway to Heaven" of our time, no matter how much you want it to be.

Morgan Shillingburg


PS. Brian Warner once said, “How can America hate something that it created? It's like being mad at your own sh**. You should have eaten something different." I think this quote applies to you.

Oh, and if you don't know who Brian Warner is, look him up. Later, RIAA.

There is much resentment toward the RIAA. They are taking away digital freedoms like recording off the radio and other things, and they encourage DRM or digital rights management by pushing Congress to pass laws forcing innovators of new technologies to intentionally cripple thier products. All this for making an extra buck from the low quality garbage that is passed off as pop music on the airwaves these days. I personally listen to bands like Pillar, Skillet, David Crowder Band and DC Talk, just to name a few.

> Jesus|Freak

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jesus Freaks - Christians in Pop Culture and Media

It seems that in the blogosphere, Christians are constantly criticized and often put down. The comments range from a ridicule, to a sneer to a downright derrogatory remark about "Christian fundamentalists", "fundies", "Christian right" etc. There is more to it though. There are liberal Christians who are working for social change. Dr. Martin Luther King, himself was a reverend and Christian leader. It seems that when someone mentions "Christian", a person will get a thought of someone like Jerry Falwell or some televangelist.

The most vehement attacks towards Christians come from "evangelical" atheists. This is a new breed of atheist fundamentalism, with a message of convincing people that there is no God. I have seen some of their blogs, spreading stereotypes and misinformation about Christianity, perpetuating the stereotype that Christians bomb abortion clinics, want to support torture and war, hang gays from trees and that Christianity is responsible for more deaths than anything ever. In fact, atheism is responsible for more deaths than all the religions put together - Christian, Muslim, Jewish and pagan. All of this in the 20th century. People like Stalin, Pol Pot, T'sung Mao, Fidel Castro and other atheists have killed Christians, Jews, Buddhists and other religious people in the name of a dogma that exalts the state along with the dictator of that state.

There is more to Christianity than decrying the immorality of abortion or rock videos or pornography. Christians have declared things like racism, corporate greed, homelessness, and hunger to be immoral. For example, the African American church has a long tradition of working for social change, starting with Fredrick Douglass and the abolitionist movement to end slavery. Christians like John Newton, the author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, was a powerful force that helped end the slave trade in the British empire. Pope John Paul II denounced both capitalism as greed and communism as slavery.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Jesus' love working through Christians Drew me to Jesus

Before I knew the Lord, I was depraved. I was into the occult, wicca to be exact. I was a chronic LSD and pot user and I wanted witchcraft to be the official religion of the USA and Christianity overthrown. I then met an autistc girl who was a Christian who told me that Jesus loves everyone and that He wants to have a relationship with me. At the time, I thought God hated me and was waiting for me to die so he can send me to hell to roast forever. My autistic friend told me that God loves me and does not want me to go to hell - that all I have to do is ask for his forgiveness and turn from sin. I did so, and soon after I joined a small street church that encouraged and loved me as well as taught and prayed for me. I was a member of that church for two years and I still have relationships with those people. This was not my image of Christians that I thought. I thought Christians wanted to bomb abortion clinics, turn the middle east into glass and hang gay people from trees. These Christians I knew were loving.

When I started fall term at PSU, I joined a church that did outreach on campus. We meet on campus and it is another small loving church where everyone knows each other. This is ideal for me, because those megachurches are just too big to be personal. Small churches are better to form loving relationships in.

All too often, Chistians will preach a "turn or burn" message to people. This message, one that I have heard many times, offered me little hope. It never worked to bring me to Jesus - it did the opposite. Christians who loved me unconditionally drew me to Jesus - not someone trying to scare me out of hell.

Jesus did not come to scare us. He did not come to condemn us either. He came to love us and save this world.

Digital Freedom - Open Source Vs. Closed Source

The open source revolution is here to stay and the software corporations are fighting it. Microsoft is trying to illegally stop the propagation of the Linux operating system by claiming that Linux violates over 100 software patents held by Microsoft. It is both illegal and immoral for Microsoft to use its monopoly power to force their bug-ridden products on the industry. Vista is buggy by all means and it runs slow. It also uses a substantial amount of system resources to run, using 2 GB of memory to run efficiently and 1 GB to run at all. Linux only uses about 700 MB of memory with Compiz running. Linux with Compiz does everything Vista does and more. In particular, the Ubuntu distribution of Linux is easy to install and run, running "out of the box". Linux usually takes up less space on the hard drive. It is a better, more efficient operating system.

One of the problems in the computer industry is that hardware manufacturers are slow to provide support for Linux. This gives Windows an unfair advantage in the market. Also, Windows is often the only choice when a new machine is bought, but comanies like Dell is offering Ubuntu as an option for an installed OS.

Another problem with Vista is that it "phones home". It is secret what information Vista sends back to the Microsoft servers but I don't trust it for one minute. It reminds me of spyware. Another problem is that it encourages DRM or digital rights management. DRM limits a user's freedom to use a particular software, video or music product as the user sees fit. I don't like DRM. It is defective by design and I will not buy music from online music stores - I will get the CD at a record store.

My laptop came with Vista installed and it took me fifteen minutes to figure out how to reset the computer so it would boot off the Ubuntu CD. I called it the "Windows that would not take no for an answer." Needless to say, Vista only lasted that fifteen minutes, then it got erased, with Ubuntu getting installed over it after a reformat of the hard drive.


Christian Unity, Christian Love

Ever since the Great Schism which divided the Eastern Orthodox Church from the Roman Catholic church, divisions have spilt the body of Christ. We need to have more unity in the church. There seems to be divisions in America - liberal Christians and conservative Christians, black Chrisitians and white Christians. Despite our differences, we need to work together. I have seen various churches and youth groups come together and serve under the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon. The ministry is called Night Strike. What they do is feed and generally care for the homeless and poor under the bridge. At Portland State University, there is a student group who's purpose is to promote unity among Christians and Christian student groups on campus. We all have one goal - to share Jesus' love by serving and loving ones in need. Then God does the work of bringing that person to the point of giving his life to Christ. It is through giving unconditional love to people through Christians that will win them to Christ - not telling them how bad they are. People already know how bad they are. Our job is to show them that God loves them. Often times, these people think God hates them. People are often times the way they are because they have been abused in some way. A little kindness from God's people will go a long way to bring them to Jesus.

We must love everyone, no matter who they are. Some Christians hate homosexuals, for instance. We are supposed to love them, even though we don't condone thier lifestyle. We are supposed to even love our enemies as Jesus commanded us to do. We must forgive as God forgave us, because if you don't forgive others, God will not forgive you. Remember, people who are in sin are enslaved to it. We need to pray to God to set them free. We must pray for our unsaved loved ones, friends and family, as well as coworkers. Lastly, we must love each other and pray for each other and we must quit gossiping about each other. Gossip kills a church faster than anything does.

We really do need to come together as a church and start loving each other and loving and serving people outside the church. We need to care more for the needy and poor among us and in our communities and pursue God with all our hearts.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fighting evil - Spiritual warfare

Evil exists in our society. That is evident. Many Christians try to combat it by attempting to gain political power to try to stamp it out. This approach does not have the power to set people free from various bondages. Legislating a moral precept does not change a person's heart - only prayer does. We can only fight evil, which comes from Satan and his demonic agents, with the power of the Holy Spirit. Our weapons are not carnal, but are spiritual, with the power to pull down strongholds. A stronghold is anything in a person's mind that keeps out the truth and keeps lies in. The battle is in the mind. Groups like the Moral Majority have drawn ridicule, struggling for real change. That is because they tried to fight on their own strength. We as Christians need to fight in the spiritual realm. Occultists and people who serve Satan operate on the spiritual and supernatural realm and so can we through the Holy Spirit. Every region and city on earth is controlled by territorial spirits. We need to be a praying church, praying for each other and our commmunities, as well as our unsaved friends, family and coworkers. We need to pray for God to send his warring angels to strike down demonic forces that are holding our cities, college campuses and communities, and our nation in bondage. We need to pray for miracles.

The Church in America understands little about praying for miracles. Miracles is how God manifests His glory and miracles occur in third world nations along with mass revival. I have even heard stories that the dead are being raised there. We need to pray for healings for our loved ones.

Then we as a church need to get out of our separatist holy huddle, go out into the world and be salt and light to a dying world. That does not mean that we are of this world or that we should immitate its sinful ways, but how can we impact a lost world if we are barricaded wthin the four walls of the church. We need to go out and be the church and reach out to people. There is a hunger for God's love among the people in this world that we should fill by loving and serving them.

We as a church, once we repent of sin that has existed in the church, need to pray for a move of God's Spirit and be ready for when that comes. And be Christ's hands and feet.