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The DMCA bell did not toll for a beloved musician—thus, I could grieve him

Enlarge / Bass guitarist Mark Sandman and saxophonist Dana Colley in concert with their band Morphin..



Enlarge / Bass guitarist Mark Sandman and saxophonist Dana Colley in concert with their band Morphine in the '90s.Getty Images / Tim Mosenfelder

I'm a firm believer in the power of a live performance. A television broadcast or DVD doesn't capture the same thing as a theatrical production or a concert. You gotta be there.

But what about when you can't? What recourse is there when you're in love with an artist or performer who you can't physically interact with for any number of reasons?

I've thought about this for decades from a few perspectives: as a former full-time music critic; as a frequent chronicler of how information is presented and exchanged online; and perhaps most of all, as a music fan who had one freaking band slip through his hands.

I will never see my favorite songwriter in concert, right in front of me, reacting to my cheers and enthusiasm. But if any performer was going to vanish just as I teetered into my concert-going years, at least this one had some surprises for me five, 10, even 20 years later, all just a few mouse-clicks away.

“I was little, I didnt know $#!*”

If you've heard of the musician in question, Mark Sandman, you likely travel in some select music circles. Sandman was best known as the lead singer and bassist for the Boston-area rock trio Morphine, who rose to mid-level, college-radio fame in the mid-'90s. Theirs was a unique sound: just bass, drums, saxophone, and vocals, swirled together in a style that Sandman dubbed "low rock." Saxophonist Dana Colley played his baritone sax like a guitar, while Sandman's unique slide-bass style favored thudding chords and far-from-subtle grooves.

I found out they existed the same way a few thousand people from my generation did: by a quick-hit report on MTV News. The cable channel would occasionally air five-minute vignettes about up-and-coming bands, usually when they'd signed to mid-level record-contract deals. Morphine's "You Hear It First" snippet wasn't well preserved; I've struggled to find it online over the past 20-plus years, but I can pin it to a specific era and a specific friend who I watched it with. One of those seared-in-the-brain childhood memories.

But at that age, if it wasn't in a BMG or Columbia House catalog ("10 albums for one penny!"), I pretty much couldn't buy a CD in question. So my real appreciation of the band was held up a few years, until I started going to the local used CD store to spend whatever part-time job money I hadn't spent at Software At Cost Plus 10% (an actual store in Dallas for a few years). I flipped through the CD store's "new arrivals" bin, where the good stuff usually hid before getting alphabetically sorted by staffers. One time, I found a Morphine motherlode. I bought it all.

Were I typing this article at a music-centric site, I might regale you with a lengthy, overwrought description—one of exhilaration at the band's crunching, unique-sounding riffs, another of my love for Sandman's straight-to-the-gut lyrics, and a third about how foolish I immediately felt for not looking up their albums sooner. Instead, I'll just embed a song.

"Radar" by Morphine (alternate studio take).

I knew this was outside the normal rock-radio realm of the time, and I also quickly figured out that not every band with a CD at my local store had quite "made it." That was OK for me. I didn't fit in at my school. It was cool to have a band to reinforce that feeling—something weird, edgy, catchy, and poetic that didn't require me to dress like a metalhead or a goth.

But as I hinted earlier, my increasing fandom didn't go according to plan. My hopes of eventually seeing Morphine in concert fell apart 20 years ago this week. On July 3, 1999, Sandman died at the age of 47, shortly after suffering a heart attack in the middle of a concert in Rome. No foul play or drugs were detected; Sandman had a history of congenital heart failure in his family, and he'd brushed aside troubling symptoms earlier that day. The rest of that 1999 summer tour was, unsurprisingly, canceled. I had just turned 18 and would've finally been able to see them at age-restricted venues.

“11 years later, still dont know any better”

I know a lot about Sandman's death. I also know a lot about the album that was about to launch when he died, about the other bandmates' efforts to create a tribute concert series in the wake of the tragedy, about a pair of documentaries about Sandman's legacy, and more.

I wasn't nearly as encyclopedic about Morphine at the time. In hindsight, I realize how numb I was to Sandman's death. Other musicians I really liked in my teens had come and gone: Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, and Shannon Hoon, just off the top of my head. And my fascination with music was only beginning to blossom; barely two months after Sandman's death, I had moved to Austin for college, where I became a live-music addict. Between cheap concerts and free file-sharing downloads, I was distracted.

My mourning period for Sandman didn't really land for some time. I've come to realize that's typical for grief, in terms of life events reminding us of the people and things we miss. But my first blush with this about Sandman came from a surprisingly geeky source: Soulseek, one of the many peer-to-peer file-sharing apps that littered the post-Napster landscape. I favored Soulseek's simple interface over the bloated likes of Kazaa and Limewire, and I loved its default encouragement to pick through uploaders' individual libraries. Search for a Weezer song, then pick through a Soulseek uploader's full collection, and you might find other Weezer rarities, if not other exciting new bands.

In Morphine's case, Soulseek introduced me to a surprising number of bootleg concert recordings, which I found while trying to fill out my collection of the band's B-sides. Some of Morphine's bootlegs came from jam-band fans who'd been to the Horde Festival. (Morphine weren't a jam band by any stretch but got booked at Horde for some reason.) Others just came from die-hard fans. Most of these sets included clearly recorded introductory speeches from Sandman: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are Morphine, at your service."

This wasn't the same as grabbing albums and B-sides. These were documents of a band experience I'd never, ever get to see. I'd finally started going to a ton of concerts (and even bootlegging a few local favorites). For the first time, I felt myself trying, and failing, to fill in the gaps of a missed experience.

"Virgin Bride" by Morphine.

Still, I loved the songs, so this material tided me over before the handlers of Sandman's estate began officially unearthing a mountain of posthumous output—enough to make the Tupac Shakur estate blush. Sandman invested in a home studio early in his career, which he dubbed "Hi-N-Dry Studios," and there, he put countless experiments and musical ruminations down on tape (not on hard drives). This was still the era of the B-side and single, which meant a few of these weird one-off songs had reached retail before his 1999 passing. (A personal, macabre favorite is above.)

The first major issuance of posthumous material came from a 2004 three-disc box set, simply titled Sandbox, which included a surprising number of entirely new songs. Sandman dabbled in a number of side projects, particularly the trippy, techno-laced Hypnosonics, and I was overjoyed to finally get my hands on more recorded examples of his oeuvre. The sentiment quickly grew bittersweet. Was it easier to miss Sandman with more songs to enjoy? Or was it harder to miss him with the realization of how surprising and diverse his output really was?

In the years since Sandbox's launch, even more music has emerged. What's more, his musical legacy has fallen into a strangely sweet spot on the Internet: big enough to have a huge number of fans uploading all manner of bootlegs and rarities, yet small enough to avoid a DMCA smackdown. I cannot recall any videos from my long-running "SANDMAN/MORPHINE" bookmark folder drying up due to a copyright claim, in spite of his biggest studio albums being available for purchase (let alone some snazzy vinyl re-releases).

“Its way too late for me to change”

The best stuff all seems to come from one YouTube channel, in operation for a little over two years, with a strange nickname attached: Sito Lupion. As I'm writing this from the perspective of a fan, not an embedded member of the Boston music scene, I don't have any personal insight about who this person might be. But as a rabid Mark Sandman fan, I can assure you, they have some incredible level of aRead More – Source

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Twitter users are exposing pro-Russian sentiment in China, and Beijing is not happy



Anonymous Twitter users are exposing the extreme nationalism and pro-Russian sentiment circulating online in China — and Beijing is not happy about it.

Scores of screen-grabbed posts from China’s most popular social media platforms have been translated and shared on Twitter in recent weeks, offering Western audiences a rare glimpse into the Chinese internet.
Among those posts: a prominent military blog falsely claiming a Russian attack on a train station in Kramatorsk was actually carried out by Ukraine, a well known media commentator dismissing the atrocities in Bucha, and a vlogger with hundreds of thousands of followers using a misogynistic term for Ukraine.
The posts appear courtesy of anonymous Twitter users who say their aim is to expose Western audiences to the true extent of pro-Russian or nationalistic content on China’s heavily censored platforms.
They often come under the hashtag of “The Great Translation Movement,” or shared by an account with the same name run by a decentralized, anonymous team that crowdsources the collection and translation of popular posts on Ukraine and other hot topics, according to an administrator interviewed by CNN. Many, but not all, appear to have been widely liked or shared within China — selection criteria cited by the administrator.
Since the account’s launch in early March it has already made plenty of friends and enemies — attracting both 116,000 followers (and counting) and a slew of criticism from China’s state-run media.
The movement was formed in response to China’s alleged hypocrisy in portraying itself as neutral on Ukraine, even while its state and social media circulated pro-Russian narratives, the administrator told CNN.
“We want the outside world to at least know what is going on inside, because we don’t think there could be any change made from inside,” said the administrator, who requested anonymity due to security concerns.

In bad faith?

China’s state media has lashed out against what it decries as “cherry picked content.” The overseas arm of the People’s Daily — the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party — has claimed the translators behind the movement are guilty of attributing the “extreme remarks” of some netizens to the “whole country.”
The nationalistic Global Times newspaper has accused the group of being “Chinese-speaking bad faith actors” and one of its opinion writers claimed the group included “foreign hostile forces” perpetuating “psychological warfare against China.”
Outside China, media experts caution the posts do not show a holistic view of public opinion in China and appear to at least partially be selected for shock value — but could still be useful in bringing these elements of China’s media sphere to light.
Critics also say the group’s tweets show evidence of its own bias — such as in posts that use a term comparing China to Nazi Germany.
Posts which gain traction on China’s social media must be seen in light of its highly censored environment, where nationalistic voices thrive and liberal ones have largely retreated or been censored, experts say.
But the administrator who spoke to CNN said the point was to highlight the visibility of such posts — some coming from popular influencers, comments receiving thousands of likes or from prominent commenstators, and even government-backed news outlets.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about the state of public opinion in China, whether it is purely the result of spontaneous interactions (or) the result of government censorship,” the administrator said.
“We want to counter the effort of the Chinese state-affiliated media by showing the West some content they do not want to show.”

Dual messaging

The resistance against the group from China’s state media highlights the sensitivities around how China wants to present itself on the world stage, especially at a time when it has been attempting to walk a diplomatic tightrope between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
China has often sought to present two different narratives — one for domestic audiences and another for those overseas. This is made possible through both a language barrier and an online ecosystem that bans apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Great Translation Movement breaks down both of these barriers.
“Even before the social media era, the way China talks internally through its state media is something it doesn’t appreciate being parsed and translated for the world,” said David Bandurski, director of the China Media Project, a research program in partnership with the Journalism & Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong.
And when it comes to Ukraine, China has sought to portray itself — at least to overseas audiences — as unaligned and invested in calling for peace. But its media coverage back home tells a different story, Bandurski said.
“If you just look at (state) media coverage, it’s really hard to talk about neutrality … Everything they have said is amplifying disinformation and aligning with Russia in terms of narratives.”
While the tone of state-backed media is clear, experts say it is difficult to gauge public opinion in China simply by looking at social media, even when it comes to popular influencers or viral posts.
Like anywhere in the world, views on social media can be extreme. In China, heavy manipulation and censorship often amplifies select voices.
“The authorities certainly have an interest in promoting their preferred narrative online, and they have the technical and political means to unapologetically ‘guide public opinion,'” said Florian Schneider, director of the Leiden Asia Center in The Netherlands.
“We should also not underestimate the power of social media algorithms: as pro-Russia statements become mainstream, they receive ever more likes and shares, which makes them more visible,” he said.

Suppressed voices, echo chambers

The situation is complicated: Beijing too has reason to be wary of ultra-nationalist voices, which platforms sometimes censor. And while nationalist rhetoric has become more dominant online in recent years, the loudest voices may not show a majority.
Bandurski said that an analogy would be looking at ultra-conservative voices in the US media environment, and assuming that was representative of the American perspective.
“So the danger is this kind of echo chamber of content, which we might assume is representative of China and its perspective, and it’s really a lot more complicated than that,” he said.
Maria Repnikova, director of the Center for Global Information Studies at Georgia State University, said when it comes to Ukraine there have been “alternative voices talking about the war…but they’re not as dominant or as loud or as visible.” Their posts may either be censored or hard to detect as social media users may express dissenting views through code and allusion.
She also asks if things would be different if images of bombarded cities of Ukraine or the atrocities in Bucha were not restricted in China.
“If people could see all of those images and scenes, would that be a different story? Would different voices pick up?”
The Great Translation Movement administrator said they hoped that the movement could help push Beijing to tone down the rhetoric on these platforms so that there would be room for more voices.
“In today’s Chinese mainstream discourse there is a very limited space for people who have a rational mind to speak,” the administrator said.
“Even if you speak out and if it doesn’t get deleted, you are still going to be spammed…and people are going to say you are a spy… the dignity of people themselves is destroyed.”

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independent– BlackBerry phones, once the height of mobile devices, are finally being shut off.

The company announced that services for the older devices will be brought to an end on 4 January. At that point, they will “no longer reliably function”, BlackBerry said, and will be unable to get data, texts or make phone calls, including to emergency numbers.

It is just the latest in a series of endings for the once equally beloved and hated name, which helped drive the mobile revolution and was at the forefront of business and technology. While the BlackBerry has been declared dead a number of times before, the latest move means that the phones themselves will actually stop working.

In 2016, after its phones had been replaced largely by smartphones from Apple and others, BlackBerry announced that it had transitioned away from phones and into making software and that it would focus on providing security tools to companies and governments. It has sold the BlackBerry brand to other companies, who have created devices bearing the name.

In 2020, BlackBerry said that with that move complete, it would start taking offline the legacy services that allowed those old devices to keep working. Phones that run any of BlackBerry’s own operating systems – BlackBerry 7.1 OS and earlier, BlackBerry 10 software – were given an “end of life or termination date” at the start of 2022.

Next week, that date will finally arrive and support will end. While the phones will still be able to perform some of their functions without BlackBerry’s services, many of their central features will be removed, and the phones will not work reliably.

BlackBerry said the support was being removed in recognition of the fact that it now works in security software and that the old products did not reflect its business. It had prolonged support in the years since that transition “as an expression of thanks to our loyal partners and customers”, it said.

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70 Jupiter-sized ‘rogue planets’ discovered in our galaxy



independent– A team of astronomers discovered at least 70 ‘rogue’ planets in our galaxy, the largest collection ever found to date.

While conventional planets (like those in our Solar System) orbit a star, rogue planets roam freely without travelling around a nearby star.

“We did not know how many to expect and are excited to have found so many,” said Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux.

­It would usually be impossible to detect rogue planets because they are hard to spot far from a star’s light. One key fact of their existence made them visible: these planets still give off enough heat to glow millions of years after their creation, making them visible to powerful telescopes.

This heat allowed the 70 planets – each with masses close to that of Jupiter – to be discovered in the Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations.

“We measured the tiny motions, the colours and luminosities of tens of millions of sources in a large area of the sky,” explained Ms Miret-Roig. “These measurements allowed us to securely identify the faintest objects in this region, the rogue planets.”

The astronomers’ study suggests there could be many more elusive, starless planets yet to be discovered, numbering in the billions in the Milky Way alone.

By studying these planets, astronomers believe they could unlock clues as to how the mysterious objects come to be. It is hypothesised they are generated from the collapse of gas clouds too small to create stars, but they could also have been ejected from a parent system.

“These objects are extremely faint and little can be done to study them with current facilities,” says Hervé Bouy, another astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique. “The ELT [Extremely Large Telescope, currently being built in Chile] will be absolutely crucial to gathering more information about most of the rogue planets we have found.”

The exact number of rogue planets discovered is vague, because the observations made by the researchers do not allow them to measure the mass of the objects. Bodies with a mass 13 times greater than that of Jupiter are unlikely to be planets, but relying on brightness makes this figure unclear.

The brightness of these objects is also related to age, as the older the planet is the dimmer it will be. The brightest objects in the sample could have a mass greater than the upper limit but be older and therefore dimmer. Researchers estimate there could be as many as 100 more planets yet to be discovered because of this uncertainty.

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