Monthly Archives: July 2011

there you have it

7/13/11

Lucy was sitting on my lap asking a lot of questions about how old we were, who was the oldest person in the family, how long people live, and a lot of other age-related queries. She gets very involved and studious during these moods (or very “scientistic”, as she likes to say) and I knew it was time to create a visual aid.

The only thing handy was the bottom of a white box, so I drew a line from 1 to 100 years, and as she asked specific questions, I put them on the timeline. Hours later, long after she went to bed, I found myself staring at the graph. It’s odd to see one’s lifespan in such vast yet simple perspective.

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streamer, you’re nothing but a streamer

7/12/11

Bill Wyman (no, not him) just wrote a good piece in Slate about how the movie/TV industry is about to make all the same stupid mistakes the record labels did ten years ago. Obviously this subject should have Tessa and me concerned, since nobody likes to be clutching the grand piano as it sinks a hundred yards from the Titanic – but our m.o. has always been to hunker down and do good work and not sweat the larger picture.

Still, it’s as if the major media corporations learned absolutely nothing from the debacle called “popular music sales after Napster”, still playing out on a teenage bittorrent client near you. Like we’ve said since the beginning, the internet views censorship (in this case, your ISP throttling your speeds) as a virus and builds around it. If Time Warner thinks you’re pirating movies and slows you down, someone will invent a system that culls from all the ISPs. Or uses bandwidth from neighbors’ idle connections. Or whatever.

Wyman says the whole issue comes down to one sentence: The easiest and most convenient way to see the movies or TV shows you want is to get them illegally. I would disagree with him, actually. I think it comes to this: In the long run, any attempts to punish your biggest fans will backfire.

What I do worry about, in private moments, is that The Powers That Be will create an online environment so punitive and illogical that people who love the long arcs of visual stories will simply say “forget this shit” and stop caring. They will replace their love of narrative with the quick fix of reality shows (sorry, LFMD) which don’t need big screens or high resolutions for their poisons to work.

The biggest fans will become the most scorched-earth, and download the shows illegally even if they’re streaming on Netflix, just out of spite. And of course, the hoarders will download every show in existence because the contraband nature of the product gives them inherent value.

That said, I think Wyman’s wrong to call illegal downloading “most convenient”. Maybe I’m a crusty old fart who only pretends to stay relevant, but it’s still fairly difficult to tell someone how to get, say, the movie Source Code illegally. You’d have to have the following:

• a computer

• a bittorrent client like Transmission or Vuze

• a pretty fuckin’ fast internet connection

• the knowledge of how to use the client, and wade through malware or shit you don’t want

• sometimes an hour of two of waiting for it to download

• making sure it’ll actually play on your computer

…and, if you want to watch it on your big TV screen, you’ll need

• a proprietary cable adapter, like “mini display port to HDMI”

• and a longer-than-you-think HDMI cable.

If and when you get the sound to work (which is not always intuitive), it will almost invariably be pixelated and the action sequences will look like shit.

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Now, sure, there are those of us who take that list as second nature, and blithely do it because we really want to see “Source Code” and there’s no other way to do it (don’t even get me started on watching the early rounds of the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament). But for 96% of America, even the sexting tweens, it’s WAY TOO MUCH FUCKING TROUBLE.

Just think: we spent the years 1954 to 1983 with four channels, but you only had to wait for the tube to warm up and you were good to go. After that, we had a remote control, and BAM! Instant on. With a DVR, we don’t even need to be around.

I fully realize there will be a day when we will be able to instantly download an illegal movie or TV season straight to our 1080p television with one button. It will be so easy that any tired American with a beer will do it the same way they click on Monday Night Football. We are nowhere close to that day yet, and judging from our embarrassingly slow internet speeds (we’re below Malta and Slovakia) and plethora of video codexes, it seems as distant as a Mars landing.

You have to stay flexible, though. Remember that the only true victors of history are the ones who did a little planning and made themselves elastic. The real question is this: assume the one-button illegal download comes to fruition. Also assume that the Media Conglomerates get their act together and offer all TV shows and movies in one online place for instant download at a really reasonable price.

What would Americans choose? Would there be any sense of guilt that would make them pay for the shows?

If they didn’t pay, and after five years of hemorrhaging money the studios started shutting down their movie and TV departments, would there be a collective decision among viewers to start paying again to bring it back?

In essence, what do you think America would do if (or perhaps, when) legal and illegal choices reached their perfect state?

sing it loud so i can hear you

7/11/11

Few things in life are more annoying than pictures of a party you didn’t attend, but since the Jartacular is more an open pamphlet than a closed book – and also since a number of people wanted to see the clientele, I’m gonna go ahead and post some pictures taken by the always-brilliant Lars Lucier, the extraordinary Tammy Oler, and yours motherscratchin’ truly.

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the initial group marches up our hill to commune

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Lucy and Lillie-Anne get swang by Salem

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Tessa gets very competitive…

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…then puts the game behind her

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Tammy took this awesome pic of my homemade ping pong table…

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…which was promptly put to use by the patrons

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Tessa and Lily attend the barn mixer

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the talent show warms up

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Thirsty Dave performs…

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…followed by Lucy & Friends’ rousing version of “Dinosaur A to Z”

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Michelle and I sing “I Will”

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Annie contemplates the infinite

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Jordana contemplates Marlena’s desires

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and we bid you a fruitful and safe midsummer

drive on parkways, park on driveways

7/7/11

As some of you no doubt already know, the city of Los Angeles is about to become even more annoying than usual; they are closing down a stretch of Interstate 405 for the weekend. I will offer two perspectives – first, here is a map of the closure (marked in red):

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“So what?” you might say, and you’d be right. LA and New York City think everything that happens within city limits is of monumental importance to the world (which is true only for New York). In an act of sibling betterment, the NYTimes posted a story about the impending disaster, even though most New Yorkers haven’t got time to care.

But lest you underestimate the situation, lemme tell you this: Los Angeles copes with extraordinary circumstances the way diffident middle school girls cope with gossip – full, crazypants, shrieking freakout. If you want to change the fate of 4.7 million Angelenos, toss a pillow onto the middle lane of Interstate 10 at 3pm. I have sat in freeway traffic for fully three hours because cars were gawking at an accident GOING THE OTHER DIRECTION.

If it rains in Los Angeles, you’d better not be giving birth, because nobody would know how to drive you to the hospital. If you’re throwing a party, 12% of your closest friends will show up, but if it’s raining, it’ll be more like 2%.

That tiny red line in the picture above may look small, but it’ll be like pouring cement into a DVD player. The town will harden into an alabaster standstill. In an attempt to get anywhere by any means necessary, millions of drivers will take to the surface streets, creating the transportation equivalent of an embolism.

The internets provide a few nice touches, like Erik Estrada’s PSA video, and the plucky attitude of the Carmageddon website, exhorting LA to stay home, walk about, and foster a sense of community – but I always look at LA community-building (at least in the middle-class, pearly-pink-pussy parts of town I frequent) as wishful thinking.

The great blackout of 2003 happened to the right city; New York always seems a few minutes away from being a profane, ecstatic rave anyway. Los Angeles, by contrast, always seems a half-hour away from a race riot and looting gas stations Thunderdome-style. We’ll see if Carmageddon disappoints all us snobby East Coast-expats by being relatively calm, but one thing’s for sure – my delicate yet judgmental ass will still be here in the middle of verdant nowhere.

time to play b-sides

7/5/11

God knows I like to come back from vacations with a epistolary bang for your internet dotage, but I’m typing this with one hand. Usually when you’re only using one hand on the internet, you’re having more fun, but this time it’s because I have 2nd-degree burns on my other thumb and forefinger.

I was driving a 12-inch lag bolt through some pressure-treated wood (which is also something that usually means having more fun) and I was checking the exposed bit to see if it was sturdy. I forgot that twisting metal through wood at a bunch of RPMs per second would heat up the bolt, and within milliseconds I was on the ground, writhing.

Back to Advil and more thought experiments on enduring pain.