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    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Reuters - "Watchmen" is treasure trove for philosophers

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    "Watchmen" is treasure trove for philosophers

    Thursday, Mar 05, 2009 6:58PM UTC

    By Jill Serjeant

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Superheroes don't just make fun characters for comic books and movies.

    Their powers, and how they choose to use them, are philosophical treasure troves, and few are as rich and complicated as the protagonists in "Watchmen," which opens in movie theaters around the world this week.

    "'Watchmen' is an embarrassment of riches to the comics-obsessed philosopher," said Mark D. White, editor of the book "Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test."

    The book is one of a series that uses pop culture as an entry point to the sometimes abstract subject of philosophy.

    Years in the making, "Watchmen" is the big-screen adaptation of the acclaimed 12-issue comic book series by Britons Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons published between 1986 and 1987.

    Like the books, the movie is set in an alternative 1985 when the United States and the Soviet Union are on the brink of nuclear war. It features costumed vigilantes who have become so unpopular they are now outlawed.

    But "Watchmen" is far from just popcorn entertainment. Its twisted superhero archetypes, like the tortured do-gooder Rorschach and brainy businessman Ozymandias, take time out from performing death-defying acts to muse on subjects like free will, savior figures and the politics of fear.

    "In 'Watchmen,' the philosophy is so explicit that you don't have to dig very hard to find it," said White, an associate professor in the department of political science, economics and philosophy at the College of Staten Island.


    The original series took the name from the phrase "Who watches the Watchmen?" which dates back to the 1st century Roman poet Juvenal and has been the subject of philosophical debate for centuries.

    The essays by academics in "Watchmen and Philosophy" look at how Rorschach justifies his often brutal actions, and tackles subjects like the legitimacy of authority.

    The mother and daughter Silk Spectres provide a window into the feminist thinking of French author Simone de Beauvoir. Another chapter is devoted to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's thoughts on the "Ubermensch" (superman).

    Although "Watchmen" raises more philosophical questions than most, hit TV shows like medical drama "House" and animated series "The Simpsons" also contain thought-provoking material for those who believe the unexamined life is not worth living.

    "Philosophy has had a public relations problem for a couple of centuries. People mistakenly think that philosophy is some dusty academic subject that is irrelevant," said William Irwin, editor of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series.

    "The mission is to see what the general public like in pop culture and use it as jumping off point for philosophical discussion," said Irwin, professor of philosophy at Kings College, Pennsylvania.

    More than 1 million books have been published in the Philosophy and Pop Culture series. Almost all the titles have been translated into Portuguese, mostly for the Brazilian market where Irwin says philosophy plays an important part in culture.

    White, who has also written on Batman, says superheroes are fascinating territory for moral philosophers like him.

    "They have taken on this extraordinary responsibility, but given that you want to save the world, what should you do first? Catch crooks or cure hunger?" White said.

    (Editing by Xavier Briand)

    Reuters - YouTube and Universal talk on music video site: sources

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    YouTube and Universal talk on music video site: sources

    Thursday, Mar 05, 2009 2:18PM UTC

    By Yinka Adegoke

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc's YouTube and Universal Music Group are in talks to create a premium online music video service, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

    If they reach a deal, the service could mark a significant step forward in Google's attempt to generate revenue from YouTube, which it acquired for $1.65 billion in 2006.

    A deal would also represent a broadening of the sometimes fractious ties between YouTube and the media industry, which has on occasion ordered the popular video-sharing site to pull down clips of TV shows or music videos uploaded by users without the media companies' permission.

    Universal, the world's largest music label, and YouTube, the No. 1 U.S. video website, are in talks to create a stand-alone site to showcase music videos by Universal artists, according to three sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

    The deal would ideally be broadened out to include videos by artists at the other major music labels -- Sony Music, EMI Group and Warner Music Group -- in a concept similar to the TV shows available on NBC Universal and News Corp's

    Many of the details, such as financial terms and whether the service would be run as a joint venture, are still being worked out, the sources said.

    "UMG CEO Doug Morris came up with this idea to do a Hulu for music but only with premium music content," said one of the persons familiar with the matter, adding that other music companies have expressed interest. "We literally just started negotiations."


    Referred to by the placeholder name of "Vevo," the site would carry premium music videos and music-related content designed to garner higher advertising rates than now available through YouTube.

    Music companies typically get paid a share of any advertising revenue associated with a video on YouTube as well as a per-play payment for every video viewed.

    YouTube, which also offers a treasure trove of user-generated home videos along with professionally produced content, is the No. 1 video site in the United States with more than 100 million viewers in January, according to market research firm comScore. Hulu has also rapidly become popular, ranking sixth in the United States in January with 24.4 million viewers.

    Vevo could also tap other revenue streams through sales of items like concert tickets and merchandise, the sources said.

    The talks between YouTube and Universal Music -- whose artists include Kanye West, U2 and Amy Winehouse -- for a service backed by all the major labels have been held up by the video site's fallout with Warner Music, one of the sources said.

    Warner in December ordered YouTube to pull down all music videos on the site featuring Warner artists, after contract negotiations between the two sides broke down.

    Universal's current licensing deal with YouTube expires at the end of March, and a new deal is expected for April. EMI is also in contract renewal talks with YouTube. Sony Music renewed its contract with YouTube last month.

    YouTube said in a statement, "We are always working with our partners to find creative ways to connect music, musicians, and fans."

    Universal declined to comment.

    (Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco; Editing by Tiffany Wu, Richard Chang)

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