Archive for the ‘Media & Reviews’ Category

No Lesser Stereotype?

February 28th, 2008 Comments off

My brother gave me a book some time ago, one called No Lesser Plea, recommending it as one to read. It is, from what I can tell, a story about a ruthless killer who slips through the cracks of the justice system, and must be dealt with accordingly. The problem is, I couldn’t finish it. It was just too ridiculously a right-wing fantasy. It was bad enough that the author had a cold-blooded murderer which the police had dead to rights get off scot-free by erupting in court and yelling “You hurt my momma!” (Um, yeah, right. Like that’s all it takes.) But I really had to put the book down after reading this description of the court-appointed psychiatrist:

Dr. Stone was not prejudiced. He considered himself a liberal, in that he believed that when black people were violent and committed crimes it was not really their fault.

All of this struck me as so ludicrous as to be beyond belief, except maybe by Ann-Coulter-level wingnuts who spout that kind of crap. But when I looked up the book in reviews on the web, nobody seemed to realize this. One review called the legal action “realistic,” and others praised the book in similar fashion. I mean, really? If I read a story where the author wrote, “He considered himself a conservative, in that he believed all black people were violent and committed crimes,” I would have a similar reaction; when the bias is so stark and unbelievable, the story loses its realism and becomes unpalatable.

I have to wonder, though, how many people believe this stuff. There seems to be a wide acceptance of the kinds of ideas this author, Tanenbaum, is shoveling forth. Maybe this is just colored by my own bias, but it seems that radical liberals are much more talked about as being out there, but radical conservative myths seem to be far more widely accepted and believed. Criminals being let off by liberal bleeding hearts, welfare queens bleeding the system dry, illegal immigrants stealing jobs and leeching off social welfare, Democrats guilty of taxing and spending us out of house and home… these untenable stereotypes nonetheless seem to get the greatest attention and the most widespread belief.

Is it just my imagination? Or is there far more outrageous right-wing myth circulating out there than there is liberal myth? If the reverse is true, then what are the liberal myths that have such strong a hold on the imagination and the fears of the American people?


February 27th, 2008 8 comments


The Japan Times article appeared in the paper today. Very nice, and I’m flattered and all… but I don’t think it’ll get anyone to visit my site. They kinda forgot to include the blog’s address in the story. Ah well. Can’t ask for everything.

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The Local News

February 24th, 2008 4 comments

Something happened a few days ago, I haven’t gotten around to blogging on until now. The Japan Times has a new feature, the Japan Times Blogroll, and I’m their feature this week:


Someone who works there knows about my blog, and so they asked me to participate. They sent me a questionnaire and gave me an answer limit of 900 words, which I reached exactly. They said that I would appear in the print version of the paper in the coming week, though the web story went up a few days ago. Not a big deal, but it’s always fun to get mentioned in the media. I even got link/plugs in for Paul and Sean.

It looks like the feature in general will be interesting to keep an eye on. They’ve already got What Japan Thinks, Japan Economy News & Blog, and Konbini Life on the roll. Maybe you can suggest a site you like to the editor using the link. Or I have an email connection with the JT guy who arranged things with me, I could pass any suggestions you have on.

Only one nit I have: the photo is credited to “Felicity Hughes Photos,” whoever that it. The problem is, Sachi took that photo, and I resized it for them. The image on their site is the exact same size in pixels as the one I provided, and is 24,028 bytes, where the original was 24,023 bytes. I don’t know who this Felicity Hughes is, but I don’t think she can claim full credit for tacking on five bytes somewhere.

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Peddling Religion on 34th Street

January 2nd, 2008 Comments off

Before I left for the U.S., I failed to find the time to get a classic movie on DVD in Japan: It’s a Wonderful Life. I wanted to get it in Japan for three reasons: first, it only costs ¥500 there (about $4.50) because copyright has lapsed in Japan for films made before 1952. But the more important reason was that a copy purchased in japan would have Japanese subtitles, and so Sachi, my parents, and I could all sit down to watch it together. Finally, as the Japanese version was beyond copyright, it would be region-free, and so viewable on a DVD player at my folks’ house.

Because I failed to get it, I asked Sachi to in my stead. Failing that, I asked her to pick up Miracle on 34th Street. Well, she didn’t find Wonderful Life–but she did find Miracle–however, she got the 1994 version, on sale for ¥980. Alas, it was not region-free. And I figured that the remake wouldn’t be so good, as remakes usually aren’t. We didn’t watch it with my folks (I knew my dad would see the IMDB rating and balk–or worse, watch it out of obligation, and not enjoy it so much), but Sachi and I did watch it together a few nights ago.

The first surprise was the cast–they did a surprisingly good job casting the film (probably they got the people they did from the reputation of the story alone). The movie is brimming to overflowing with actors you’ll recognize–almost every role was filled with a name actor, including some bit roles. Richard Attenborough was the best possible choice for Santa Claus, and perhaps the major saving grace of the film. While he could not be expected to live up to the definitive performance given by Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 original, he did as well as anyone could have hoped to do. Mara Wilson (Mrs. Doubtfire, Mathilda) similarly could not compete with Natalie Woods’ performace, but she also did pretty well. Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds, Big) and Dylan McDermott (The Practice)were serviceable as the unbelieving mother and the faithful attorney-cum-father figure.

Other cast members stood out for their performances as well as for their name recognition. J.T. Walsh played the prosecutor trying to put Kris Kringle away; Robert Prosky (Mrs. Doubtfire, Veronica’s Closet) played the judge; William Windom (Star Trek, Murder She Wrote) played the affable owner of the good department store, while Joss Ackland (Lethal Weapon 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) was way over-cast as the villainous head of the competing department store (which may be why he went uncredited in the film, despite his being instantly recognizable). James Remar (Dexter, 48 Hours) and Jane Leeves (Frasier) played the agents of the competing store. Even Allison Janney (The West Wing) made a cameo appearance as the shopper who is swayed by Kringle to be a loyal customer.

The film itself was surprisingly well made, and not too disappointing. While it pales in comparison with the original (the original had much better dialog, for one), for a remake it fared decently–but only where it stayed faithful to the original. Where it tried to go original, it failed rather notably, and unfortunately, the film did so in two of the most important side stories.

The first was the mechanism which got Kris committed to a mental institution: in the original, it was the young Santa impersonator that Kris took a shining to because of his good heart; Kris got violent because the store’s psychologist fed the young man bad and hurtful advice. In the remake, that storyline was erased, and in its place, we got an expanded role for the drunken Santa that Kris replaced at the beginning of the film, who is hired by the bad guys to intentionally provoke Kris into violence.

However, the worst substitution was, both figuratively and literally, the deus ex machina for the film’s climax. In the original, we saw workers at the post office mischievously decide to unload all their unsendable Santa letters to Kris, inadvertently granting him the recognition of the government that gives the judge the excuse to also “recognize” Kris as the real Santa Claus. That ending had both a humorous and natural flow that worked perfectly in the story, and was not at all preachy or intrusive.

In the remake, however, this was replaced with a literal deus ex machina, culminating from an overarching religious preaching that pervaded the film. Where the original was enjoyably secular, the remake suffered from a theme of religious superiority that was annoying enough all through the film, but stood out painfully at the climax. Throughout the film, there were presentations of religion and faith, mostly delivered by Dylan McDermott’s character, that rather irked me. Instead of the attorney/boyfriend disapproving of the mechanistic mother’s depriving her child of a merry childhood fantasy, the remake’s attorney clearly disliked the mother’s religious non-belief, demonstrated by an early scene where he insists on saying grace where the mother is clearly uncomfortable with it. Later, the attorney excuses the mother’s disapproval of her child visiting the department store Santa to Kris by muttering the word “unbeliever” to him. As it had religious overtones, it lost it’s playful innocence and sounded almost like a damning or a name-calling–the word “heathen” would not have been too dissimilar in the same context. It all smacked of the same cluelessness some religious people have when they preach to people of different beliefs, and then can’t even detect that those people are annoyed and insulted–born from living too cloistered among other believers to understand other points of view. This is not even a “let Christians be Christians” situation, but instead a smarmy put-down of non-Christians that all too many Christians are tone-deaf to.

But the deus ex machina comes in the climax when the little girl interrupts the judge’s decision, and gives the judge a Christmas card with a dollar bill enclosed–with the words, “In God We Trust” circled in red felt marker. Bolstered by a bizarre million-person flash-mob in the streets, where New York comes to a standstill so that everyone can stand silent until they all cheer at high noon, this clumsy interjection leads to a flimsy argument by the judge that if the government can recognize god, then by golly, he can recognize Santa Claus. This solution lacked the humor and frivolity of the original, replacing it with a preachy and unsatisfying injection of religion.

Had they simply kept the young Santa impersonator, the incompetent store psychologist, and the letters-to-Santa elements of the original, this could have been a much more enjoyable film. Done as it was, it was still enjoyable for the most part, but was more or less spoiled by the in-your-face religious message splashed into the story. While the original may have had some of the same elements, it was far less proselytizing–one could see it as being about imagination and magic, rather than religion and god. No wonder that the remake is commonly included in “Christian Cinema” lists.

Note: We did find It’s a Wonderful Life, by the way–on Google Video, of all places, complete with subtitles (which, for us, transitioned into Spanish halfway through…).

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Dog of a Movie

December 13th, 2007 4 comments

The other night, Sachi and I went to see a film she’s been waiting for: “Mari to Koinu no Monogatari” (“The Tale of Mari and the Puppies”). The reason Sachi wanted to see it was that Mari and the puppies are Shiba Inus, and Sachi loves Shibas. Through Sachi’s influence, I have grown to like them a lot too, and the puppies, you’ll have to admit, are basically just little furry teddy bears that are cute as hell.

The story is based on a real family that was caught in the 2004 Niigata earthquake. The basic plot involves a family consisting of a father, grandfather, and a son and daughter; the mother died some years before. They live in a rural town. On their way home one day, the kids stumble upon an abandoned puppy, and the little girl falls in love with it. At first, they avoid taking care of it and keep it far from home because their father hates dogs. Eventually, things work out and the dog is accepted into their home. Some time later, the pup, Mari, has grown into an adult and has three puppies of her own.

The the quake hits; the son is safe at school, the father survives the quake in town, but the daughter and grandfather are trapped under their collapsed home. Mari eventually runs off and finds some Jietai (Self-Defense Force, or Japanese military) rescue workers, who rescue the girl and her grandfather, but the dogs have to stay behind in the abandoned village.

The rest of the movie is the little girl trying to get back so she can rescue the dogs. If this were a romance film, someone would die at the end, but this instead being a heartwarming kids’ story, you can guess what the conclusion is.

The main reason we went to see the movie was to enjoy a few hours of cute dogs, and we got enough of that. The rest of the movie was pretty lackluster. Quite frankly, there should have been more dog stuff; despite the title suggesting that it’s a story about Mari and her three puppies, probably 90% of the movie was centered on the family; there wasn’t as much cute dog pron as there should have been.

Also, according to this account, most of the story was fabricated; there is no mention of two kids, just the old man and his son (he’s called “grandfather,” but in Japan, that’s often a name people will attach to an old man). Apparently, the puppies were born on the day of the quake, and were not bigger and fluffy when it happened. Nor was the old man dug out by Jietai; rather, he was inspired by the dog to dig himself out. And since there were no cute kids involved, about 60% of the rest of the movie is pure fabrication, in addition to what else was fudged. But I guess that’s not too unusual for “true story” movies.

The cast was so-so, except for one outstandingly bad actor–Yasuda (Masanobu Takashima), the Jietai soldier who comes to care deeply about the little girl getting her dog back. When he rescues the girl and her grandfather, they are flying back on a helicopter full of injured and desperate people who have seen their village destroyed–but when he sees the little girl crying because she sees her dog chasing the helicopter, he dramatically punches the wall of the helicopter in outrageous frustration. The rest of his acting was similarly hammish and forced.

Even the dog playing Mari was pretty unexpressive, or more likely, the filmmakers did a bad job of getting any expression from the dog.

In any case, here is the trailer for the movie on YouTube:

After the movie, Sachi and I went out for yakitori. By chance a piece of chicken on the grill looked like this:


That looks suspiciously like a Shiba Inu head! And it was tasty, too.

Truth in Advertising

October 28th, 2007 Comments off

Wow. Either some atheist over at Apple got their way, or there was a strong rule about truth in advertising in effect. Look at the capture from the trailer page at Apple’s site for the new movie “The Ten Commandments”:


I bet that a lot of people on the religious right will be furious with that classification.

By the way, the movie looks atrocious. The computer animation is the most awful I’ve seen since they started doing this stuff; a lot of it looks like an amateur made this thing on his home PC. This would not have been state-of-the-art even ten years ago, an eternity in CG time. And the casting–Christian Slater as Moses? Elliot Gould as god? It’s almost as mind-boggling as how they could get actors of that level, let alone Ben Kingsley (narrator), to participate in a project put together as badly as this one seems to have been. Yeesh.

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WKRP in Cincinnati on DVD

October 12th, 2007 1 comment

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, WKRP in Cincinnati has been out on DVD for about five months now. It came out in April; I got the DVD set in May, and immediately after that, a series of events in my life (like, moving to a new city as well as suddenly having to take on the work of two people at my job) pushed back my posting on the series until now.

Watching the series again reminds me of why I liked it as much as I did. Each of the characters had their own appeal, and none of them were lackluster–even Andy, the straight man, had his moments, and otherwise was funny just for the 70’s hair and tight clothing.

It was the over-the-top quality that made it likable; it’s not just that Jennifer was a stereotypical blonde bombshell, that Herb was a tacky salesman, or that Les was an ultra-paranoid nationalist wimp; it was the extremes the characters went to. A man comes up to Jennifer and says, “I’m not as old as I look”; Jennifer responds, “Are you any richer than you look?” Herb just showing up with wardrobe from a golfing store, with belts that make his behavior inevitable. And Les buying into conspiracies like Cubans backed by the Red Chinese massing in the lobby. And Johnny in a class all by himself:

I don’t know what you want here, but I think you should know that I’ve killed a lot of old people in my time… and I’m not above doing it again!

Even with the character of Venus, the writers and Tim Reid were able to pull off a miracle, taking the token-black character and making him a lot more. (Even though it’s not in the first season of the show, one of my all-time favorite lines from TV is, “I don’t know, Herb… how do you get paint off a frog?”) And that’s another charm of the show: everyone begins as a typical sitcom stereotype, but exceeds the role while still staying true to it.

But the gags come back so easily: Johnny finding ways to sneak up on Jennifer with a ridiculous monster-inspired gait; Les’ remarkably embellished intro tapes to the newscasts, his tape-defined-office, constant desire for a news helicopter, and his wandering bandage; and the usual spur-of-the-moment improvised put-ups that are so standard in comedy show, but WKRP pulled off with aplomb. Watching Johnny Fever’s reaction to Jennifer suddenly making him her husband is priceless, and the whole cast dynamic plays into it–Herb is in furious denial, Les is sweetly happy, and Mr. Carlson is nice and does not want to know what’s going on. What would be a boring rehash on any other show is funny as hell here.

Like any good comedy show, there were the cross-purposes misunderstanding gags, like the episode where Les is accused of being a homosexual, but Herb thinks it’s all about Jennifer being a guy who had a sex change operation (Jennifer: “What is going on?” Herb: “I don’t know, you wanna go bowling?”).

Also like a good comedy show, there was a fair dose of serious social commentary–interesting in the way the issue was dealt with in the 70’s, like Les and homosexuality, or Venus and the Vietnam War.

Watching the show is like going back in a time machine. You recall every episode, and even as you’re watching one, memories of so many others come to mind, like the painted-frog episode. I can’t forget Les Nessman’s announcement of a “giant lizard” ravaging the East Coast, Johnny informing him that the “B” is out on the teletype, and Les sticking to his story. Thinking of the issues covered on the show, I was immediately reminded of one of my favorites of the series, the season 3 episode, “Clean Up Radio Everywhere”–the episode where a Jerry Falwell-style preacher on a censorship spree. You know it’s a good show when you can’t wait for moments like that to come along, even though you know many won’t come until future season releases. That’s not a problem–each season has enough stuff you forgot about to make up for it.

The special features on the first season DVD box set are a bit skimpy; only two half-hour segments have commentary, and there are two featurettes. The commentary for the most part is good. Series creator Hugh Wilson comments with Frank Bonner (Herb) and Loni Anderson (Jennifer) on the first half of the pilot and the infamous “Turkeys Away: episode. They combine some of the well-known folklore (like the nonsense lyrics on the end song and Les’ roving band-aid), some less-well-known trivia (like taping down Loni’s nipples), and general reminiscing about the show and specific scenes. The one part where the commentary goes awry is when Hugh Wilson goes into a monologue about a backstory to the “Scum of the Earth” episode just as the Turkey story reaches the climax; you want to shout at him to stop and get back to the turkey story, but he goes on through the whole parking lot episode. Other than that, the commentary is pretty enjoyable.

The two featurettes are pretty short: one runs six and a half minutes, the other three and a half. They are essentially slapped-together clip shorts interspersed with video commentary by Wilson, Bonner, and Anderson, with some additional interview time with Tim Reid. The first covers the idea of Jennifer Marlowe being the quintissential blonde bombshell with Herb always hitting on her; the second is a short-short on how the episode “Fish Story” came to be. Interesting, but not much more than a little extra commentary.

Then there is the most controversial aspect of the DVD set: the missing music. It’s also probably what delayed the release, as the music labels tried to demand more than would have been worth it for the set to be released. As a result, some of the music has been replaced. For the most part, I don’t really notice; I’m not a big rock’n’roll aficionado, and don’t remember the original series in such great detail that I could notice whether a song had been replaced by memory alone.

Nevertheless, there are places where the missing music stands out. Sometimes Johnny or Venus will introduce a song with a clever segue, which will be broken up by not having the necessary musical cue. One notable example is in the second half of the pilot episode, where Johnny introduces a song by saying:

Are you awake? Whoo! Are you awake now? Because it’s 10:15 in the morning … for those of you who are still into “time.” You know, it really flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? I know I am! I know I’m outta control! I know my pulse is starting to pound. And the blood is rushing around. And I feel feverish. And I am the Doctor. And I know all you babies, you sittin’ at home, and you sayin’ to yourselves, “Tell me Doctor, when you feel like this, what do you take?” Well, I’ll tell ya:

Then Johnny starts the Bob Seger song “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which begins with, “Just take those old records off the shelf…” The segue works–the song answers Johnny’s question. Now, in the DVD version, they couldn’t use Seger’s song, so they replaced it with generic rock, no lyrics. The “what do you take?” segue is watered down, but still works on the level of “taking” music to quell the fever. But what gives away the alteration is that the audience laughter responds to the missing lyrics; you hear a laugh which responds to something that’s not there any more.

The thing is, this is not such a big deal. First of all, most of the changes aren’t quite so evident. For example, I have no idea if the song preceding Johnny’s segue was also changed; it may have been, I don’t know. Maybe that bugs you, but it doesn’t me–hell, it could even be a kind of game, “spot the missing music.” In the end, though, it doesn’t amount to much. A few gags are missed, and maybe a few songs you liked aren’t there any more. But what we’re talking about is really not much more than a fragment of the show, icing on the cake as it were. The meat of the show remains; the replaced music was a garnish. For example, in the above segue by Johnny, there were two or three good lines equal to or better than the missing gag. So really, it’s not a big deal.

The special features and the controversy really don’t impact the set much. If you’re buying the DVD, what you’re really getting it for is to watch the show. And the show is excellent. And about time it came out. The only question is, when are the rest of the seasons coming out? I want to see the painted frog episode!

In addition to the DVD being out, you can also download individual episodes from Amazon’s video download site

Oh, and by the way… Booooger!!

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September 26th, 2007 2 comments

From here:

In an August 2006 Time magazine article, America is Drawn to Manga, VIZ Media went as far as to say that “true manga” was made only in Japan.

And true champagne is only made in France, and the identical drink made elsewhere must be called “sparkling wine.”

Please. They’re cartoons. Cartoons where the main draw is scantily clad women and giant robots, and usually everyone has monstrously huge eyes which, if real, would scare the crap out of you instead of looking cute. (Yes, I know, manga is more than that, but I never really got into it much and really don’t care.) It’s a style, and style can be copied, often times very effectively.

If you can drink a beverage and really discern which country it was made in, then congratulations, you have far too much free time on your hands. Everything else is marketing and turf, or otakuppoi interest at the level of who-is-better-Kirk-or-Picard.

But then again, on second thought, maybe there are not very many casual readers of manga. In which case, the distinction might very well make a difference to everyone who reads the stuff.

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NBC Doesn’t Really Get It

September 21st, 2007 Comments off

After having skipped out of Apple’s iTunes Store, NBC seems to be flailing about a bit. They signed on to sell their shows on’s video sales service, and now have announced another “free” download service that is ad- and DRM-laden.

The Unbox service seems to be the most reasonable; it allows for more flexible pricing, which the networks of course desire. However, it is also restricted; it requires Microsoft’s “PlaysForSure” DRM software–something also desired by NBC and other content providers–which pretty drastically limits viewing abilities. You can’t play the video unless you’re running Windows or opt for the TiVo option. The video cannot be played on iPods or even Zunes.

The “NBC Direct” route is set up to be a disaster. Not only is it so heavily restricted that you can only play it on NBC’s proprietary software and can’t use it on anything but a Windows PC, but it carries ads which cannot be skipped. Sure, it’s free, but so long as you’re allowing ads into it, why be so stupid as to watch it on NBC’s player where you can’t skip them? Why not just tape or TiVo the show? The “NBC Direct” idea is completely nonsensical.

Part of the reason NBC left Apple was over pricing. Apple claims NBC wanted to charge as high as $5, and other reports suggest that Apple wanted to lower the price on all TV shows to $1. Probably the NBC suggestion of $5, if it happened, was less a serious proposal and more an idea thrown out there. And I can certainly see content providers wanting to set their own prices.

The thing is, Steve Jobs is no idiot, and NBC would be well-advised to listen to him. Sure, he gets money from iPod sales, demands large profit margins for his own products, and does not lose money if the margin on TV shows sold on the iTS is slashed. I will give you all of those.

Nevertheless, Jobs is one of the best marketers around, and he stands to profit by selling more and more and more of NBC’s content. And more often than most people in the business, Jobs has been right. Case in point: music sales on the iTS. It’s wildly successful. But remember how the music labels had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into allowing for $1 song sales and no tiered pricing? Well, the iTS has been a rousing success, having sold more than 3 billion tracks in 4 years–over half of which sales occurred in the last one year–capturing 88% of the music download market, becoming one of the biggest outlets for music sales.

Like I said, Jobs is not an idiot. And selling TV shows for $1 apiece is similarly very astute. A lot of people have downloaded TV shows at the $2 price, but that can be sustained for only so long and at only so high a rate. Most people will begin to realize that at the end of a season of shows, they have only the shows to own, and they have shelled out between $40 to $48, depending on how many episodes there are in a season. In the meantime, the networks release the DVD set very soon after the TV broadcast ends, and one can own the whole season at higher quality, with all kinds of extras an add-ons, for less money. Payment for one is not transferable to another–you can’t apply the $46 you paid for season 1 of Heroes to the $40 price of the DVD box set. And if you want to watch the show in your iPod or other handheld player, you are limited to downloading via BitTorrent or another service, though you might have to process the file to squeeze it into a format the player can handle.

Yes, that fits nicely with the network paradigm of making viewers pay multiple times for the same content. But enough viewers are not stupid enough to make this a big seller. Jobs has the right idea: price the bare-bones, lower-quality version for lower, and people might go for the double-purchase a lot more easily. After all, $23 doesn’t seem quite so bad a price to pay for having immediate, portable, commercial-free access to a whole season of shows while you’re waiting for the feature-rich, expanded DVD box set to be released. A lot more people would go for that, and NBC would make a lot more money. In the meantime, a lot more people are instead turning to BitTorrent.

Here’s an even more radical idea: make the downloaded versions into the equivalent of a boxed DVD set. Offer the extra versions as extra downloads included in the price of a season pass. You can raise the price because you are essentially selling the DVD box set plus the ability to get it delivered a lot earlier, as the episodes air. Instead of $40 for the box set, sell the season pass equivalent for $50. That would represent a lower profit margin, but I bet increased sales would make up for it–and you would cut out the crowd who only buy one or the other but not both.

But here’s the biggest idea: drop the frakking DRM. Jobs was dead right earlier this year when he said that DRM was stupid. It is. It does not stop piracy one bit–in fact, it encourages piracy. Why? Because if you pay for the video, you have all these restrictions and roadblocks and limitations; if you download it for free, there is absolutely no restriction on what you can do with the file. DRM does not even slow pirates down, and it punishes paying customers. Why NBC and other content providers fail to see this glaringly obvious point is beyond me. Remove the DRM, and sales will rise, piracy will suffer. What is with these idiots at the studios?

In the meantime, if you aren’t in the BitTorrent crowd, expect to pay higher prices multiple times, and face higher obstacles to viewing where and when and how you like.

Dynamite Warrior

July 15th, 2007 Comments off

DynamitewarriorI just thought I might mention this, purely out of a sense of the weirdness of it. A new movie trailer on Apple’s trailer site, called “Dynamite Warrior.” First, this bit appears in the description of the trailer:

A supernatural, action packed movie with high-grade special effects and the kind of raw action scenes the world is coming to expect from Thailand.

Um, okay… I didn’t really expect that much out of Thai movies, but… Justin, any comments?

However, the description get weirder:

…the killer is in fact a warlock of immense power, a nearly invincible mystical man who is trying to control the whole village. His one weakness? He can be harmed only by weapons that have been treated with the menstrual blood of a young virgin.

It’s at that point that I essentially said, “okay, I’m outta here.” Those wacky Thais. You’d think they’d give older virgins a chance.

Seriously, though, if the trailer is any indication, there don’t seem to be any “high grade” special effects, or even any special effects that I can make out. Just a bunch of choreographed martial arts moves based on ridiculous extremes, with flying objects on wires. Not nearly as impressive as most of the stuff that’s out there. Which makes this just weird, not even cool-special-effects-weird.

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Fox “Apologizes”

June 6th, 2007 1 comment

Here is Fox News’ “apology” for “mistakenly” running the “wrong footage” yesterday, showing John Conyers instead of Bill Jefferson.

Several things to note here. First, the statement is so brief and, as Conyers himself put it, lackluster, that it in itself is almost an insult for that reason. If you blinked, you could have missed this statement. In fact, fully half of the statement simply recaps the story about a Democrat being indicted. The “apology” part takes all of five seconds.

Second, such an apology requires a special note to any person who is shown and labeled as corrupt and up on charges, but who is actually innocent. Not mentioning Conyers by name or apologizing directly to him was a grievous insult in itself, as if to say that no one specific was wronged.

Third, such an apology usually focuses on what was wrong about the error, and at least tries to dispel the belief that there was any intention behind it. Fox’s statement barely covered this, as one could infer from the word “mistakenly” that they did not intend to show what they did. But a proper apology would at least touch on the easily-inferred racial undertones and stated that such were not intended and no one should take offense. Not that such a statement would be believed, but at least it would be proper.

Fourth, the briefest possible “explanation,” that the footage was shown “mistakenly,” is hardly an explanation. Normal errors of this type are when footage of an upcoming story is queued up ready to go, and someone in the control room accidentally pushes the wrong button and the video is shown out of sequence with the commentary. However, this “error” was of a completely different order. The Conyers footage was not for any pending story. Instead, the Conyers footage had to be retrieved from archives where it by practice is carefully labeled and notated, and then reviewed and edited manually to select the appropriate small clip to be aired. Which means that either the clip was badly mislabeled and nobody in the review process caught the error (nor in the broadcast itself since it took a full day to note it) or it was not an error at all. And since, from Fox’s history and its well-known bias, it is easy to believe that it was an intentional jab at Democrats and blacks, a more detailed explanation and disclaimer was at the very least appropriate.

Of course, the reason for the lack of a real apology here is pretty clear: Fox would have to admit to… well, to being Fox News. They would have to apologize directly to a Democrat, which would probably cause half the Fox News executive staff to suffer brain hemorrhages. They would have to publicly recognize that something they did was racially offensive, which would dredge up all sorts of equivalent behavior on their part. Or they would at least have had to touch peripherally on the matter that they were either intentionally racist and biased, or that they simply can’t tell black people apart. You can bet that on another network, someone–perhaps even the newscaster–would have quickly recognized that it wasn’t Jefferson, if not because Conyers is so well-known and recognizable, then because Jefferson would not have been anywhere near Alberto Gonzales. But, yet again, we have to remember: this is Fox News we’re talking about.

Update:Fox apparently–and quite surprisingly–realized that their first apology was completely unacceptable, and does it again–this time a lot more properly. They still don’t touch on the color issue, but they do make a big deal of the fact that they put Conyers in Jefferson’s place.

As a side note, YouTube has just made it a lot easier to embed their videos when viewed on a non-YouTube site. They added some Javascript goodies that allow for choosing related videos in a very Mac-Dock-like fashion, and at the end, an easy-to-use copy-the-url-or-embedded-code feature. Very nice. In the past, I had to click the “share” button, then change the URL from “share” to “watch,” and then grab the embedded code from there. This is much easier.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Media & Reviews Tags:


May 10th, 2007 5 comments

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of Al Sharpton, and never really was since I fist heard of him in relation to the Tawana Brawley case. Some liberals and some libertarians seem to like him, say that he’s good at bringing up topics that should be brought up, and/or see him as a constructive spoiler in political campaigns and debates. I don’t see that myself. I don’t dislike the guy that much, but I’m certainly no follower, and have little reason to defend the guy.

And if I thought that Sharpton really had said something to the effect that Romney or Mormons in general did not “really believe in God,” I would be alongside the people condemning him for the remark. I certainly do not feel that Christians are always respectful of people with differing beliefs, and would have little trouble believing that one mainstream Christian said that about a Mormon. In fact, I think Romney’s biggest obstacle in this election will be the fact that the majority of Republican voters tend to be strongly non-Mormon Christians.

If Sharpton had a history of bigoted statements, towards Mormons or any other religious group, I would also be suspicious of what he said recently.

The thing is, I don’t think the claim holds up that Sharpton was talking about Mormons.

Sharpton said: “…and as for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a temporary situation.”

Out of context, it certainly sounds like Sharpton was saying that Romney and/or Mormons don’t believe in God. However, context is everything. Sharpton was debating an atheist, and it is absolutely believable that Sharpton was telling Hitchens–the atheist–that people who really believe in God as opposed to atheists would defeat Romney. Not people who believe in God as opposed to Mormons.

Now, especially out of context, the statement could be taken either way; the thing is, in the context of a debate with an atheist, it makes far more sense that Sharpton was talking about atheists being the ones who don’t really believe in God–else one would have to believe that Sharpton has suddenly turned into a massive anti-Mormon bigot with no history to suggest that.

The thing is, most stories I am seeing so far in the media don’t even mention that he was debating an atheist. Take this one, an ABC affiliate. Yes, it’s in Mormon country, but even then, to exclude the entire context of debate with an atheist is equivalent to outright lying. And of course, conservative blogs, Fox News, and the Romney campaign have started running with the story and are busily establishing their version of events. Lou Dobbs had Hitchens on, but again, showed only the clipped statement–even muted the audio of the previous statement in showing the clip–and then had his debate opponent comment on it, which he did as a means of expressing disdain for religious groups.

Like Gore’s statement about “taking the initiative in creating the Internet,” or Bill Clinton’s “I didn’t inhale” statement, there are two ways to read it–the way that makes perfect sense in context, and the way that makes the speaker sound like an utter buffoon. This is the same situation: taking the statement in the context of a debate with an atheist, Sharpton was almost certainly not dissing Mormons. But if you want to make it sound sensational, it is very easy to spin the statement the other way.

But I have noticed another problem: nobody is providing the context of the whole dialog between Sharpton and Hitchens. I have looked solidly on Google, both in news and on web sites, and not a single one of them show (a) the statement that Sharpton was responding to–incredibly vital in order to understand the nature of his reply–nor did they (b) even include all of Sharpton’s statement. They cut in with Sharpton saying “…and as the one Mormon…” and many of the quotes dishonestly cut out the “and,” leave no ellipses to show that it was a continuation of a prior utterance, improperly capitalize the start of the second clause of his statement, and do not show what came before.

This is incredibly dishonest, and inexcusable that news outlets–supposedly objective–should cut it like that. For all I know, the words before that statement were exculpatory, or even more damning. But leaving them out–and in many cases, acting like they didn’t exist–makes it impossible to understand fully. It certainly makes it seem even more like Sharpton was indeed saying something else, but that including the prior utterance would lessen the sensational impact of the story. All that I can say is that within the context of debating an atheist, what has been quoted so far makes perfect sense–albeit awkward wording–in the way Sharpton is still insisting that he meant it.

Like I said, I have no great love for Sharpton, and if the full story indeed shows he was making a bigoted statement against Mormons, I’ll be right up there condemning him. But with the facts that are out now, that does not seem to be the case, and with the full context still being held back, that’s the only honest way of reading it.

I am also somewhat disappointed that, at least so far, the major liberal blogs are completely ignoring the matter. Perhaps they are waiting for a full transcript, perhaps they just don’t want to touch it. But it seems to me that what has been shown so far is enough to make the point I myself have made.

If anyone can point me to a transcript of the debate with the full Sharpton quote and the statements preceding it, I would appreciate the heads-up.

Categories: Media & Reviews, Political Ranting Tags:

Spiderman 3

May 7th, 2007 2 comments

S3-MaeurikenWell, I got an unusual chance yesterday–to see a movie here in Japan at about the same time it starts showing in the U.S.–in fact, the public sneak previews started even earlier here, but I wanted to go see the film with Sachi. We were able to get good seats because I had visited the theater the day before and got seat assignments–something which only Toho and Warner/Mycal theaters let you do in Japan without extra charge, I think. Strangely, although you can buy your tickets online from those places, they won’t let you get a specific seat–they only allow you to choose a general section of the theater.

In any case, the movie. Super-short summary: not great, but a fair action flick. Slightly longer review: in order to watch this movie, make sure you have set your critical faculties aside and are in full disbelief-suspension mode–even for a fantasy-villain super-hero movie. That goes not just for the mode of how villains are created, but also for personal interactions between the characters. It’s kind of like an incredibly well-budgeted special-effects extravaganza written by someone who couldn’t figure out how to get from A to C so they kind of fudged on B all the time. You start at scene A, which is good, and you arrive at the payoff scene C, which is better; but scene B leaves you shaking your head.

Another problem with the film is villain overload. There are three villains in the movie–or four, depending on how you count them. Hell, even five, in a sense. They do wrap things up fairly (though not perfectly) neatly at the end, but at times you get a bit tired of yet another villain arriving to molest Spidey. It also seems to be an increasing trend: in the first Spiderman, there was one villain; in the second, two. God knows what they have planned for a potential fourth film.

Another quality this film picked up from the second film in the series is the drag-them-down-to-bring-them-up technique of storytelling, except this time they applied it to both Peter Parker and MJ. As the film starts, MJ has a starring role in a broadway musical, and Peter is madly in love with her, getting ready to propose. So, you know things are going to disintegrate. And, of course, that at some point, MJ will be grabbed by the villains and Peter/Spidey will have to rescue her. Don’t worry, I am not giving anything away here, just like I would not be giving anything away to say that in Die Hard 4, there will be highly improbable car chases, stunts, and explosions. It’s established formula by now.

Once you get past all of that, there is some good movie there. As usual for the Spiderman series, the human element of the story is pretty strongly emphasized–the relationships between characters, and the principles of morality involved. But let’s face it: when you go to see a film like Spiderman 3, you go for the action and special effects. And there’s a fairly good amount of that in this film. The nature of the villains and their modes of transport assure it. The flying scenes between Spiderman and Harry or Venom tend to fly by so fast, with so much happening, that it’s almost impossible to take in what’s going on; they seemed to crank the speed of these up to the maximum, testing the limits. The Sandman effects were fairly impressive, and are probably where a fair amount of the $250 million budget went to–but in the end, you have to wonder if it was really necessary to spend that much to get this film.

If you’re into Spiderman or just enjoy super-hero action films, this’ll be worth watching. If not, then not so much; it might be good light fare, but you might want to wait for the film to reach a lower-priced venue to see it.

As I have noted before, American movies often premier late in Japan; Spiderman 3 is an exception. Here’s a list of upcoming movies and when they open. A few open within a few weeks of the US release, but more open more than a month later, with a few coming many months late:

Shrek the Third: USA, May 18; Japan, June 30
Pirates of the Caribbean 3: USA, May 19; Japan, May 25
Ocean’s 13: USA, June 8; Japan, August 11
Surf’s Up: USA, June 8; Japan, January 12, 2008
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: USA, June 15; Japan, September 29
Live Free or Die Hard: USA, June 27; Japan, August 4
Ratatouille: USA, June 29; Japan, July 28
Transformers: USA, July 4; Japan, August 4
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: USA, July 13; Japan, July 21

As for films that were already released in the US, 300 comes out in Japan on June 9; Zodiac on June 16; and The Prestige (opened last October in the US), June 9.

The Simpsons Movie, set for a July 27 release in the U.S., doesn’t even have a release date for Japan. Neither does Rush Hour 3–which is rather odd, considering how popular Jackie Chan is here.

Categories: Media & Reviews Tags:

Getting It Right

April 24th, 2007 Comments off

I still enjoy watching Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” but there is one aspect to it that makes it painful to watch sometimes: Maher’s lack of preparation. Let’s face it, he gets his kudos for being irreverent, not studied on the issues. And because he doesn’t seem to prepare much beyond his own immediate talking points, his conservative guests tend to get away with outrageous statements. And sometimes it’s not even the preparation which seems thin, but Maher’s apparent inability or unwillingness to challenge commonsense contradictions.

For example, on a recent show, one conservative guest discussed the Second Amendment as if it was a fact that it conferred an individual right, in the face of about a century of Supreme Court rulings to the contrary; Maher agreed with the statement instead of challenging it. Yes, Maher is Libertarian, but was arguing for gun controls, and even if he weren’t, at the very least one would want the facts of a case observed.

At another point, a right-wing guest got away with saying we should stay in Iraq because when we pulled out of Vietnam, there was massive bloodshed; Maher did not supply the obvious counter-analogy, which was that Vietnam also was not a war we would have won by staying in. Like Iraq, Vietnam would have just dragged on and festered for however many more years we stayed there, and the same bloodshed would have happened when we eventually left anyway. But Maher let this guy’s rather outrageous analogy just slip by.

A third issue that Maher let slide was “partial birth abortion,” where he was very poorly prepared or just poorly informed, and let the supremely politicized distortions about what “partial birth abortion” is and how it is applied to the issue fly right by–he even said that he had respect for them on the issue of abortion, as if he accepted this extreme wedge issue as representative of the issue as a whole.

Sometimes there will be a liberal guest on the show who will set the record straight instead, but the third guest who would otherwise have balanced the two heavy conservatives was a Democratic governor from a red state–in other words, a conservative Democrat who had something to lose by taking the liberal position on any of the issues mentioned. So he didn’t really act as a counter to them at all.

The thing is, the other guests shouldn’t have to do this. Maher brought up all the issues I listed above, and so he should have at least had a staff flunky do some basic research and give him some crib notes. But almost every time, Maher seems to come to the moderator’s table with little more than what he skimmed from the newspaper. For a person leading what is essentially a debate, Maher does not seem to prepare at all for that debate, and that can be frustrating sometimes. I very much enjoy the show, even when I disagree with Maher and/or his guests, but to have such complete fiction spouted and not challenged when even a half-assed attempt at preparation would have sufficed to stem that sort of thing….

It’s the kind of show where I can get worked up about a thing, and even pause the playback to debate the point as if I were there. Which is not good, really–there’s no point in me doing so, but it helps relieve the frustration. A pity, it’s otherwise a good show, but this flaw often makes me think twice about watching.

Categories: Media & Reviews Tags:

No Fox Debate in Nevada

March 10th, 2007 Comments off

This was really a no-brainer from the start, and why Nevada Democrats ever agreed to a Fox News-sponsored debate in the first place is beyond comprehension. After all, can you imagine Republicans agreeing to put McCain, Giuliani and Romney in a debate hosted by Air America and featuring Al Franken, Randy Rhodes, and Jesse Jackson? Even if Ann Coulter were thrown in as a token conservative? Somehow I don’t think so.

Fox attempted to sidetrack the boycott by offering to “co-host” with an Air America affiliate, but it was soon made clear that they would still control the debate, with a panel of Fox personalities joined by a single Air America questioner. The format would be clear: Fox would make their best attempt to focus the “debate” on smears of the candidates, try to pit them against each other with accusations and dirt, and then wind up the farce by having a post-debate show talking about how stupid and lame all the candidates were. Yeah, Democrats should be happy to participate in that, and boycotting it was a real blow to “balanced” reporting, proving that a Democrat should not be elected because they’re all “afraid of journalists,” “only appear on those networks and venues that give them favorable coverage,” as Ailes put it. Which, of course, describes the Bush administration to a tee.

But when Nevada Democrats somehow agreed to such a bargain, they were immediately castigated by the bloggers and others as having made a huge blunder–and because it would look bad if they suddenly retreated under such criticism, they had to wait for some other excuse to back out of the debate. And Fox News being what it is, they didn’t have to wait long before they got their excuse. It came in the form of Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, making jokes which compared Barrack Obama and Osama bin Laden.

Ailes’ remarks are particularly interesting because he had just scolded Democrats for the rumored boycott of the debates, saying among other things, “We’re headed into covering a tough political season, and all of us will be called upon to do our best and be fair.”

And then just hours later, he said, “It is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?'”

Not that this was the first such biased comment by Ailes or the most outrageous. And yet, somehow he sees this as being “fair.”

I’d hate to see what his idea of “biased” is.

Categories: Media & Reviews, Political Ranting Tags:

Crazy Dreamer

March 5th, 2007 1 comment

The Simpsons isn’t out of good stuff yet. This week’s was another of their musical episodes, which I usually don’t enjoy–but it had one of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard on a TV show.

For those who don’t like the spoilers, it’s below the fold.
Read more…

Categories: Media & Reviews Tags:

Finally: WKRP on DVD

March 5th, 2007 3 comments

Wkrp-S1For a long time, WKRP in Cincinnati was a notable exception to all the TV shows being put on DVD. You kind of had to wonder why that was, seeing as how so much money could be made off of it. The answer: the RIAA. Original episodes of KRP had popular music in them, often inseparably from the dialog as Johnny or Venus would introduce a song. The problem came when the music labels started asking exorbitant piles of money to approve their rebroadcast–and so they had the owners of WKRP by the cajones. No music, no show. Many of the original episodes were shown in syndication, with non-licensed music dubbed in place of the big hits.

Well, apparently they worked something out, because the first season of WKRP (click-through to Amazon) is finally coming out on DVD on April 24th. It will have 22 episodes, some extra features (commentaries on two episodes with Hugh Wilson, Loni Anderson, Frank Bonner, & Tim Reid, plus three featurettes), and will cost $26. From what’s been reported, the studio wasn’t able to work out everything with the music labels, and so there will be music substitutions that fit the episodes. But no problem there–the little 5-second snippets we heard in the original episodes are not what made the show really good, anyway.

Categories: Media & Reviews Tags:

Published! …Sort Of

March 2nd, 2007 5 comments

75ArgsAbout nine months ago, I got contacted by a professor at a college in Texas who was putting together an anthology of readings for college writing classes, asking if he could publish one of my blog posts in his book. Duly flattered and all big-headed about it, I agreed, on the condition that I get a desk copy in return for my magnanimity.

The post, by the way, is Arguing on the Internet, from December 2005. You can read it here, for free! How about that!

Well, it seems like half the bargain has played out. Last I heard from the permissions coordinator in August, the book had been sent to the publisher a bit later than expected, and the July publication date had been set back a little. After that, I just forgot about the whole thing until tonight, when a re-sorting of my inbox brought one of the old emails into view. I started to write a letter back to them asking what had become of the whole thing, when I thought of doing a search on the web, and bingo–got an instant hit.

The book, as it turns out, was published last September. Guess they were a bit too busy to remember to send me my desk copy (of course, I have just now sent them a gentle reminder of the agreement).

In one sense, this is kind of cool. When I started this blog, I certainly did not expect anything I wrote here to wind up in a college textbook. And, as the author pointed out when he was asking for my permission to print, I am in the very same chapter (Chapter One!) as George Orwell, George Lakoff, and Deborah Tannen. I am the closing act, in fact! Wow! And I’m sure that I deserve to be in such company, and that the author was not just trying to stroke my ego!

In a slightly more realistic light, I’m still a dweeb with a blog who wrote a post that a community college professor in Houston figured he’d fill out a new anthology with.

But, still, George Orwell!

Buy it via this link (you know you want to!) and I get a cut. (Through my Amazon Associates account, not any deal with the publisher.) But for some strange reason, the US Amazon store does not list the table of contents (and therefore not my own name! Bastards!). The Canadian Amazon store does, however. Yet another way to Google me.

I’m sure the book and movie deals will start pouring through the door after this. Any day now.

Categories: Media & Reviews Tags:

Raiders of the DaVinci Code

February 28th, 2007 1 comment

One story in the press this week is about the supposed discovery of the tombs of Jesus, Mary Magdalena, and their conjectured son Judah. Behind it are the “Exodus Code” producers Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron.

From what I understand, the tombs will be opened on live TV, whereupon ghostly apparitions will fly out, and James Cameron’s face will melt while Jacobovici’s head will explode.

Seriously, what the hell is with Cameron? He used to make awesome films. I guess he got all the money he needed after Titanic, and can do whatever the hell he wants now. I can understand why he went on a decade-long kick on deep-sea submersibles and just made documentaries about Titanic and related subjects–the guy probably just loved doing it and figured he’d focus on that.

But now Cameron seems to be behind a new string of Christian-themed movies-of-the-month, becoming a new huckster for cheap religion-masquerading-as-science crapola. A new hobby I can understand, but a Bible fetish and spurious claims of having proven the Red Sea parting or finding Jesus’ tomb… that’s straying well into wacko territory.

What happened, did a cult get their hands on him or something?

Categories: Media & Reviews, Religion Tags:

Macrovision’s Statement on DRM

February 17th, 2007 4 comments

Steve Job’s polemic on DRM drew many responses, but they’re essentially all the same: full of hot air and horse manure. As a representative sample, here’s the one from Fred Amoroso, CEO & President of Macrovision, a company that specializes in the production of DRM schemes:

DRM is broader than just music
While your thoughts are seemingly directed solely to the music industry, the fact is that DRM also has a broad impact across many different forms of content and across many media devices. Therefore, the discussion should not be limited to just music.

He’s right. DRM should be removed from all media, not just music. DVD region encoding, for example, is in place for no other reason than to defeat the open marketplace and gouge customers in each region for as much as they can be shaken down for. And Jobs’ argument applies equally well to all DRM: it can be and regularly is broken, and so DRM, in every form, does nothing but hobble honest, paying customers so that the companies applying the DRM can cheat them. The entire argument that DRM has anything at all to do with piracy is bunk–it is clearly and simply about controlling media after a customer has bought it so that the paying customer must pay the highest price possible, and pay that price again and again for the same media.

DRM increases not decreases consumer value
I believe that most piracy occurs because the technology available today has not yet been widely deployed to make DRM-protected legitimate content as easily accessible and convenient as unprotected illegitimate content is to consumers. The solution is to accelerate the deployment of convenient DRM-protected distribution channels—not to abandon them.

This is just one of the many places in this argument where Macrovision’s bias as a DRM-producing company shows through. The point Jobs made, the point which is absolutely and glaringly true and real, is that DRM will never work. So long as there is a clear picture and clear sound output at one end, pirates will always find a way around whatever DRM scheme is thrown at them. Macrovision just wants to get the perpetual contracts to make yet another DRM scheme when each successive one is defeated.

Without a reasonable, consistent and transparent DRM we will only delay consumers in receiving premium content in the home, in the way they want it.

There’s a bald-faced lie if there ever was one. The way customers want it is without DRM. What Amoroso is saying here is supposedly that DRM can allow a customer to choose between delivery systems and viewing devices. What he really means is that without DRM, a customer would actually be able to view media without restrictions–i.e., you buy it, you own it–and that’s the last thing Macrovision or the media producers want. They want to charge the customer for the same media again and again and again, as many times as they can. Pay once for viewing over cable, again for renting, again for buying to watch on TV, again for buying to watch on your iPod, and so forth and so on.

Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a “one size fits all” situation that will increase costs for many of them.

Yeah, customers would really hate owning something outright after paying for it, without restrictions about how how and where and how often they can play it. That would suck. What Amoroso is probably talking about, however, is the idea that without DRM, one high price would have to be paid instead of many small prices. Which, of course, is BS. It all tracks back to the idea that somehow media can’t be made available without DRM–that if even one version is free and clear, it will ruin all other sales. But since most media is sold without DRM, and all DRM is breakable, and yet the media producers are still making many, many billions in a lucrative business, that’s clearly bull.

Besides which, it does not mean that DRM must be universally applied. Want to DRM a rental movie which is only intended to play 2 or 3 times? Fine. If I rent it, then I don’t own it, so DRM away; I don’t expect rental material to be permanent, or else I would wonder why NetFlix wanted their DVD back. You think that DRM is necessary for the subscription music services, where people pay for access and not ownership? Again, fine–if ownership stays in your hands, you may DRM till the cows come home. But if I pay to own the media, then keep your grubby little DRM paws off of it, thank you very much. I just paid your highest price, the “one size fits all,” and now it’s mine.

In fact, Amoroso’s statement itself suggests that the highest price to be paid deserves no DRM. The “one price fits all” he mentioned must be the highest possible price, and that price is for outright ownership–and Amoroso said plainly that such a price would be tied to “abandoning DRM.” Thanks, Fred! You just made Steve Jobs’ case for him.

DRM will increase electronic distribution

… Quite simply, if the owners of high-value video entertainment are asked to enter, or stay in a digital world that is free of DRM, without protection for their content, then there will be no reason for them to enter, or to stay if they’ve already entered. The risk will be too great.

You mean like every single movie and TV show now made, which are all transferred eagerly to DVDs which have either no DRM, or DRM that is so easy to break that there is no practical difference? What horse crap. All music and all video is already in a DRM-free world, in that every single piece of media can be separated from DRM easily and effortlessly by pirates, which is supposed to be the whole purpose of DRM, right? And yet all these media producers just can’t wait to release their material because of the immense profits waiting for them despite the “devastating” effect of piracy (which, of course, is little or no effect at all).

In short, adding DRM will not increase the release of media at all, for the simple reason that all media which can be released, is being released already. You can’t increase the amount being released when everything is being released. And with DVD sales now exceeding box office revenues, the suggestion that movie studios would pull out of the DVD market if DRM were not available is so ludicrous as to be laughable.

DRM needs to be interoperable and open

No need to go over this–the paragraph is simply a swipe at Steve Jobs, daring him to license FairPlay, with the insinuation that he’s the one ruining things by running a monopoly.

The rest of the statement is more PR gobbledygook, essentially saying that a reliable and pirate-proof DRM can be achieved (wrong), and the good people at Macrovision are just the people to do it. Blah blah blah.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: DRM has no relation to piracy, zero. It’s about shaking down paying customers for more. It’s like the guy who ties a string around a quarter so that after the vending machine accepts it, he can yank it back out; the content producers want to use DRM as the string around the media they “sell” to you, so that after you pay them for it, they can still yank it back and keep charging you for it.

Categories: Corporate World, Media & Reviews Tags: