Bookshelf: The Pirate’s Dilemma

The Pirates Dilemma
The logo is free to remix

I recently finished reading The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Hackers, Punk Capitalists, Graffiti Millionaires and Other Youth Movements are Remixing Our Culture and Changing Our World by Matt Mason.

I posted a link to Amazon to buy the book but it’s free to download (you choose the price) from the Official website.

I’ll start by saying that this is a great well-researched book for anyone who is (a) a pirate (b) a creator (c) a media exec or (d) wanting to look at the history and origins of piracy in context.

Mason starts off from the odd perspective of introducing us to the punk revolution. The entire first chapter is devoted to punk capitalism. Whilst I think this has it’s place in the history of piracy, I didn’t think it was necessary to devote a whole chapter. I did at one point wonder if I was about to settle into a book which was using piracy as a subterfuge for writing about the history of the music industry, but by chapter 2 we dive right into the heart of the matter, with pirate radio and patent trolling. Nice to see the Principality of Sealand get a mention too. So we can thank Mason for the brief history of punk and forgive him for confusingly making it the premise of the subject of the book.

The other niggle I have is the use of the apostrophe in the title. Surely it’s not a pirate’s dilemma at all, but a pirates dilemma – since the dilemma is with the media industry?

There is a lot of references to history and the use of copyright, which made informative and educational reading. I had heard before of how early America basically stole works from Europe but I was not informed of the whole story, or of the origins of the contemptuous nickname ‘yankee’! In summary, America was historically a nation of pirates, Hollywood in particular founded on piracy – They were the original Pirate Bay of the 19th century. Don’t take my word for it – read the book!

The book pretty much covers all the topics around copyright and piracy, and answers many questions that the less informed may have. Mason frames the act of piracy in terms of culture and history very well – making a compelling argument for not only why we should allow piracy, but support it. The subjects range from graffiti art and other counter-culture movements to the foundation of hip hop and the invention of the iPod.

Mason sticks to his music reporter roots throughout and provides insight into his own background in pirate radio and the discovery of Grime. However, despite my issue with the way the book started, he actually does a good job of making the connections of the roots of music with the remix culture, cultural revolution and of course, what is now termed piracy.

It’s not all a one-sided argument either. Of course, given Masons background he could be considered biased toward piracy but he actually offers up both the good with the bad – drug dealing and happy slapping are just a couple of examples. With regards to happy slapping, Mason considers this a kind of ‘last resort’ for a younger generation. A generation desperate to get away from a media and marketing culture that ‘pounces’ on any grass roots youth culture movement before it has a chance to become established. Mason references parkour as a strong example of this. Though I don’t think something like happy slapping can be so easily excused, it has given me a new perspective and I’m finding myself agreeing with this view.

The Pirate’s Dilemma is not a roadmap to a better future, in fact the logic would seem to indicate we are in a constant war between creative freedom on one side and powerful corporate interests on the other. However perhaps if enough of the right people were to read it – politicians, media execs, content creators, then perhaps there is hope for a more open future society.

Already Spain is showing itself to be a much more progressive country in this respect. Could this truth spread to the rest of the Western world some day? I hope so.

2 Months on The Shangri-La Diet

I don’t have the greatest eating habits, and I don’t diet well either. I’m too finicky and enjoy sweet things way too much. So when I heard about the Shangri La diet a year ago I was intrigued. It wasn’t until summer 2009 that I finally picked up the book. We were visiting family in BC and I spotted it in a second hand book shop.

I only got round to reading it this January and before I was half way through I was eager to give it a go. The theory is based on science and self-experimentation by Seth Roberts. The idea is that we all have a set-point (a food thermostat) and the higher the set-point, the longer it will take for us to feel full (just as a temperature thermostat regulates the temperature).

The goal is to lower your set-point for food just as you would lower the thermostat to lower the overall temperature of your home. As you lower your set-point, you eat less to get full, and in eating less your body shrinks.

So how do you lower your set-point? Roberts lists a number of methods but the one he found most successful – in fact consistently proven – was taking a combination of sugar water and flavourless oil as part of his regular diet.

The beauty of it is that you don’t need to change any of your eating habits at all – you just add the sugar water or flavourless oil to your daily intake and let the magic begin.

Onto My Experience…

It took me a little while to get my head around the concept of the book at first, it seemed to make sense reading it but then when I came to try and explain it I struggled. Still after finishing I decided I’m crazy enough to try it. I started out by taking a tumbler glass of cold water with a tablespoon of sugar in – what I didn’t remember was that I was supposed to sip it. Remove my appetite? It did – but also left me with a giant headache! I then took to boiling the water and drinking it like I would tea or coffee which is much less pain.

It took a few days for the weight loss to kick in, but the appetite died straight away. I found I could easily dodge a packet of crisps or chocolate bar. Interestingly, when I did finally become hungry, I became hungry for much healthier things, and new tastes. This all happened without any conscious thought – Instead of buying a chocolate bar when I found myself in a cafe or newsagent, I’d mysteriously find some sort of will power to simply ignore it. It’s like magic – all craving and hunger gone.

After a while on the sugar water, the sweet taste in your mouth gets a bit sickly so I decided to hit the extra-light olive oil. I poured a table spoon and slurped it back. After about half an hour I felt the oil sinking to the bottom of my stomach and when that happens – the thought of a greasy packet of crisps is enough to make you feel physically sick. The oil felt like it had 3x the power of the sugar water – I could get by on one meal a day and eat nothing all evening – every time I turned to the cupboard where the biscuits are I had to look away.

I kept it up for a month and consistently lost weight. Unfortunately things changed at work and I found myself working late and on an irregular schedule. I still managed to lose weight but not as fast. I seem to be over the busy period now so I’m going to get back into the routine and I’m aiming to lose another 3 stone. At this rate I calculate I could manage this by October in time for our 4th wedding anniversary – so I’ll post updates.

One caveat I think I have discovered. At one point a few weeks ago I attempted to ramp up the weight loss and started taking 3 tablespoons of oil in one go – this seemed to have a counter effect – it was putting me off my appetite but achieved little. So the best advice here is not to go gung-ho, you’ll just hit the other side of the bell curve. Just maintain a steady course and the weight will eventually drop off. I’ve found it tends to be a ratio of 3 pounds off, 1 or 2 pounds on.

So how did much weight have I lost so far? In 2 months I’ve lost 13 pounds – 1 pound shy of a stone. I may have lost more too if I had followed it consistently, but I have even skipped days due to a hectic work schedules. I have not been meticulous in tracking results as I wasn’t sure how it would go, but here is my personal chart of what I did track so far:

2 Months Weight Loss
2 months weight loss on the Shangri-La Diet

I have managed to convince others, but no-one yet has taken it up. I was stopped outside church on Sunday by someone who had noticed the weight loss and wanted to know how I did it. I have still yet to convince my fiercest critic – my loving wife, but at least she’s stopped calling it a placebo!

If this has whet your appetite (pun intended) or got you interested then you can pick up a copy of The Shangri-la Diet at amazon.co.uk.

Bookshelf: The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats I was a little curious when I saw the title of the movie come out and when I spotted this book on sale I decided to pick it up and satisfy my curiosity.

As it is, I’ve now read the novel before the movie, in fact I’ve only watched half the movie so far. For what it’s worth I don’t think the movie does this book justice at all! In fact the movie is less an adaption of the novel and more of a poor tribute to it.

There’s just so much detail left out and from what I’ve watched so far, it’s really treated entirely as a comedy with little care or attention paid towards the serious, more saddening side. Of course I’ve only seen half so all that may change towards the end of the film, but where I left it just seemed to be getting nowhere near the darker side of the novel.

As for the book, the book is fascinating, immersing, funny and tragic all at the same time. The author carefully leads us through interviews and historical events, offering background and explanation to the occasional bizarre moments that leaked into mainstream press and public consciousness. It also shows a darker, sinister side to the lighter, much joked about moments such as the leaking of torture using Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

Linking all of these events and bizarre military strategies is something that sounds like the plot of a badly concieved B-movie. The First Earth Battalion, brain-child of and army man gone native hippy taking inspiration from the peace movement of the 70’s. The author, Jon Ronson carefully lays out how something that started out as a thought experiment in creating a US army of peaceful warrior monks – bringing love and peace to the conflict zones – became so twisted and corrupted, ending with something a bit like Saw franchise meets X-Files.

Of course, it’s hard to touch on so much material and cover-ups without eventually succumbing to a conspiratorial tone, and towards the end of the book, as the author runs out of leads, there is a slight leaning towards speculation. It doesn’t detract from the novel in any way and after everything else that’s been presented, it doesn’t feel that far reaching. However, it does leave an small opening for sceptics to question the research and sources.

Nevertheless, I felt enlightened after reading the book, since there are so many references to real and tangible historical events, it really makes sense of it all from an inside perspective. It certainly makes you more media aware when looking out for those occasional blunders that make it into the spotlight.

The Men Who Stare at Goats totally belongs on your must-read list, click on the link to buy it now at Amazon.co.uk!

Book Review: Charles Mackay’s Extrodinary Popular Delusions & The Madness of Crowds

“A modern-day interpretation of a finance classic”

That was a long title for a short book. It’s not the actual Charles Mackay work, it’s a modernised version written by journalist Tim Phillips that basically summarises the important details and lessons that apply today, as much as (if not more than) they did back then.

“Here’s the catch: we rarely spot bubbles as they occur. We can identify them with hindsight, but that’s not a lot of use if you’re investing. It takes a strong stomach, when a price keeps rising, to hold fast to your belief that it was fairly priced at half its current price.” Ch. 22 p. 45

Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds: A Modern-day Interpretation of a Finance ClassicEach chapter is broken down in to two concise pages and covers everything from the crusades to witchcraft and the dutch tulipomania to the recent economic meltdown. It makes for an extremely easy read, allowing anyone with even a basic education and knowledge to access the wisdom contained within.

The lessons are clear and sober, there is a soundbite for every topic – a quote called a “defining idea” and a footnote with ideas about how to apply the lesson to your business.

This is a must-read book for pretty much anyone who either invests money, uses money, is interested in the economy or finds their lives affected by it – which pretty much covers everyone. In fact I’d go as far as saying it should be made into a school textbook. This is required reading for life.

Buy Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds: A Modern-day Interpretation of a Finance Classic (Infinite Success Series) today on Amazon.co.uk