Four: Crash Test. Aziz returns to his homeland, with Human Giant in tow. Arj Barker and John Mulaney scheduled to appear. Midnight, UCB Theatre, free but sold out so show up early for that standby line.
Hollywood studios are going into business with one of their biggest tormentors: the peer-to-peer pioneer BitTorrent.
On Monday, the company, whose technology unleashed a wave of illegal file-sharing on the Internet, plans to unveil the BitTorrent Entertainment Network on its Web site, BitTorrent.com. The digital media store will offer around 3,000 new and classic movies and thousands more television shows, as well as a thousand PC games and music videos each, all legally available for purchase.
The BitTorrent store will work slightly differently than rival digital media offerings like the iTunes Store of Apple and the Xbox Live service of Microsoft. BitTorrent will commingle free downloads of users’ own video uploads with sales of professional fare. And while it will sell digital copies of shows like “24″ and “Bones” for $1.99 an episode, it will only rent movies. Once the films are on the PC, they expire within 30 days of their purchase or 24 hours after the buyer begins to watch them.
New releases like “Superman Returns” cost $3.99, while classics like “Reservoir Dogs” cost $2.99. The studio’s content plays in Microsoft’s Windows Media Player 11. It is secured by Microsoft’s antipiracy software, which blocks users from watching rented movies on more than one PC or sending them to others over the Internet.
I’m sorry, I’m not getting the point. There are no technological advantages to this over the existing online video stores – in fact, from first glance, the DRM seems more crippling than what Apple offers. Oh, and you’re providing your bandwidth back to help speed up the downloads. What a deal this is to your average consumer!
What’s really enraging about this is how the studios really don’t get it at all:
“Somebody once said you have to embrace your enemy,” said Doug Lee, executive vice president of MGM’s new-media division. “We like the idea that they have millions of users worldwide. That is potentially fertile, legitimate ground for us.”
Just a second, need to take a deep breath.
You’re not embracing your enemy. You’re embracing a tool of the enemy.
“They” don’t have millions of users worldwide. The technology “they” made has millions of users worldwide. Undoubtedly this service will have to use a new, special BT client to manage the DRM. Where are your users now?
Those million of users aren’t using BitTorrent because they’re wedded to the technology. They’re wedded to the content that’s available to them – and the speed it is available – through that method.
The content you’re offering? It’s the same content as iTunes, as Amazon Unbox, as Walmart, as Netflix, as Gametap, as Xbox Video Marketplace. They can already buy it, and usually with better usage rights.
They’re not pirating because the items aren’t available legally, it’s because your DRM is making interop impossible.
And hey, people are still pirating things through HTTP, FTP, Hotline, and Usenet. (Shit, why don’t we have some Gopher piracy servers?) You want to try co-opting those? Nope, you want to co-opt another technology with brand recognition, just like you did with Napster. How’s that working out for you? Last I heard, eMusic was second behind iTunes.
The land is fertile, yes. And you’re going to come in and pour some goddamn DRM Brawndo over the land and ruin the crops. Idiocracy, indeed.
(Not like any of this really affects me – Windows Media Player 11 doesn’t run on a Mac. Who needs interop, anyhow?)
Dear Uncle Ezra was the very first anonymous advice column on the Internet/Intarwebs/Webinet, debuting in 1986. Questions are answered by an anonymous Cornell staffer who farms out what he does not know to other experts within the college. The service is available to everyone, not just the Cornell affiliated.
It is a rare day where I doff my hat in awe of someone who can create a game that redefines the word “sadistic”, but today is one such day.
As part of a large order from Amazon UK I mentioned in the earlier QI post, I ordered the QI Interactive DVD Game. I’ve spent some time playing it over this terribly long weekend, and I have been both shamed and humbled. The game is terribly, terribly evil, and I wish to illustrate why.
The point of the game is to collect the seven letters hidden on the disc and anagram them into the appropriate word, can then be entered into the appropriate spot on the QI website to be redeemed for a prize of some sort.
I like using OmniGraffle, so I figured the best way to explain how the game works is through diagrams. These little fluffy clouds represent our seven letters.
Each letter is associated with a “door” on the DVD. Each door contains a path which contains fifty multiple choice questions. Each question has four to eight possible answers. So in our diagram, we’ll connect our start point to the end point with an arrow that contains fifty midpoints.
Merely struggling through 50 questions would be tedious but not interesting, so to spice things up, some questions have more than one correct answer. A right answer is treated like a right answer – Stephen Fry congratulates you and likely gives you some trivia about why or how your answer is right.
But herein lies the catch. While more than one answer can be considered right, some of them are considerably less interesting. And if you choose a less than interesting answer, you will be led through a number of different questions in some other direction to eventually be told that one of your previous answers were not the most interesting, and so you are being unceremoniously dumped back to the beginning of the leg.
These are being added to the diagram as red paths ending in pitchforks – although, again, they are not any different from the regular branches in look or feel.
Of course, these multi-answer questions don’t merely appear in the regular track – they appear once you’ve gone off the beaten path as well. Let’s add these in blue:
Oh, yeah, and you have to do this seven times:
Again, this is a simplified diagram – I have no real way of knowing how many false branches their are per path.
So, cheers to the QI elves for probably the most frustrating game since Takeshi’s Challenge. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.
EDITED TO ADD: There is also a fair chance that I’m just bad at these sorts of things and/or have rotten luck. Katie managed to trounce her way through two straight paths without a single misstep. She is an impressive lady.
WARNING: Many of the links below go to sites with fractured web design and possibly disturbing text, images, or sound. Click at your own risk.
The plot seems to involve some sort of military drug called “Parepin”, and an underground resistance, set some time in the future. The first site, IAmTryingToBelieve.com, was found by reading the bold letters on the new tour t-shirts. Subsequent sites found include:
“While people are tuning into their iPods and cell phones, they’re tuning out the world around them… If you want to listen to your iPod, sit down and listen to it. You want to walk in the park, enjoy it. You want to jog around a jogging path, all the more power to you, but you should not be crossing streets and endangering yourself and the lives of others.”
It’s good to know that after a landmark election, particular in NY state, we are still giving government jobs to the batshit insane.
Before we get to the snark, here’s the simple, logical response I’ve been pitching in response all morning:
If you’re crossing a street – with or without an iPod – in such a way that you are a danger to traffic and those around you, then you must not have the right of way.
Logically, this means you are crossing against the light.
This, of course, means that you are jaywalking, which is literally defined as “to cross or walk in the street or road unlawfully or without regard for approaching traffic.”
We already have laws against jaywalking that are barely enforced.
Why do we need another law?
Okay, on to the snark. Other distractions to ban around NYC:
Tourists that stop dead on the sidewalk of Times Square. I’m constantly running into people taking pictures or gawking at neon signs. This is dangerous.
Stairs. They are often slippery and/or wet, causing injury and possible death.
Rain. Rain is distracting. Also, wet. Again, safety hazard!!!
Children. Not only are they a distraction, they are a waste of taxpayer resources.
Cars. Did you know the #1 cause of accidents on NYC’s roads are automobiles? It’s true! They must be banned immediately.
Light. Our tourist friends have proven that any sort of shining object can lead to a disaster. Total darkness is much safer.
Evening. On second though, plenty of bad things happen in the dark. Why, 74% of NYC crime occurs between the hours of 6PM and 6AM! Let’s get rid of 12 hours in the day.
Sound. What’s more frightening than a car backfiring, a glass breaking, or a loud siren? Abolish noise, and we can focus on the task at hand – putting one foot in front of the other, repeatedly.
Knowledge. You know the saying about curiosity killing the cat? ONE DEAD CAT IS TOO MANY PEOPLE.
I look forward to our non-existence going forward.
I have found a new television show to love. And like many television shows I love, it is nearly impossible to watch in the US.
The show in question is QI, or Quite Interesting. And the structure for it is indeed quite interesting – to quote the official site:
Quite Interesting – or ‘QI’ to its friends – could loosely be described as a comedy panel quiz. However, none of the stellar line-up of comedians is expected to be able to answer any questions, and if anyone ends up with a positive score, they can be very happy with their performance. Points are awarded for being interesting or funny (and, very occasionally, right) but points are deducted for answers which merely repeat common misconceptions and urban myth. It’s okay to be wrong, but don’t be obviously, boringly wrong. In this way, QI tries to rid the world of the flotsam of nonsense and old wives’ tales that can build up in your mind. QI not only makes us look more closely at things, it encourages us to question all the received wisdom we have carried with us since childhood. Think of the program as a humorous cranial de-scaler.
QI features a panel of four comedians, the likes of which have included Hugh Laurie, Jimmy Carr, Clive Anderson, and Peter Serafinowicz among others. The show is hosted by the sublime Stephen Fry, and permanently installed guest Alan Davies plays the “intellectual counterpoint”, as it were.
In many ways, the show resembles long-form improv comedy. The panel starts with a question relevant to the season they’re in (more on this later), and the show drifts gently in whichever direction the conversation flows. Occasionally Mr. Fry must bring the show back into focus with another themed question, but it seems that by the end of the show, things have a habit of wrapping back into themselves. Which is undoubtedly the whole point of the show: to tease out the connections between things, to find the unintended comedy in what we’ve been indoctrinated over the years.
Regarding the seasons: rather than numbering the seasons of QI, they are lettered, and the major questions in each episode all deal with subjects that start with that letter. QI is the intellectual equivalent of Sufjan Steven’s Fifty States Project. Of course, with Sufjan only two albums in, and QI starting to tape the E season, Mr. Stevens will have some catching up to do.
Some in the audience may be rolling their eyes, thinking “there goes Dan with another show no one watches again”. It’s worth noting that the best selling book on Amazon UK in the last quarter of 2006 was the QI book, and that the show outperforms the typical BBC average ratings by over 600%. It is, seemingly, wildly popular.
Ratings and global media empires aside, the one thing that sold me on QI more than anything else was their philosophy, which I’d like to quote a few portions of before linking to a video:
…The world brims and bulges with interesting information, but these days it rarely reaches us. A preference for the quick fix on the part of both consumer and corporation offers increasingly materialist, visceral satisfaction. We want it easy and cheap and we want it now. Fashion, celebrity, pornography, lottery. The culture is withered and lame, flashy and shallow. They’re just not interesting…
…Whatever is interesting we are interested in. Whatever is not interesting, we are even more interested in. Everything is interesting if looked at in the right way. At one extreme, QI is serious, intensely scientific, deeply mystical; at the other it is hilarious, silly and frothy enough to please the most indolent couch-potato…
…And this is the point of QI: it is worthwhile. It is ‘autotelic’ – worth doing for its own sake. And it echoes the venerable mission statement of Lord Reith’s BBC: to educate, inform and entertain…
Below is a clip of one of the episodes from YouTube; it begins with a discussion of Barbara Streisand’s moustache, and proceeds as one would expect.
QI has enough appeal that it spurred my first and only order from Amazon UK over this past weekend. I hope that you, too, will find it quite interesting.
Dan Dickinson is a 32 year old living in Jersey City, New Jersey. By day, he works at the intersection of collaborative technologies, education, web development, and medicine. By night, he's a soccer journalist. He loves nostalgia, minutiae, and introspection. This has been his primary (vivid) weblog since February of 2000.