How are you doing? Hope you're liking The Boondocks. If not... Nick @ Nite's probably got some Andy Griffith showing right now. That'll go down like milk & sugar. [adult swim]
You know, shows about paranoid delusional racist fantasies I can handle. But not this nauseating patronizing condescension.
Adult Swim, you're on thin ice with me. And it's only been seven minutes.
... And on the rebound after the commercials...
Dear Adult Swim, I am one of those scary Republicans you hear about. I happen to think it's NOT better to try to offend people like me with needless attacks on all things political. Boondocks... is it really necessary?
Yes, it is necessary. Your side controls the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the corporate world. At least give us a 22-minute animated TV show. [adult swim]
I guess it's Andy Griffith for me.
UPDATE: Peter writes to point out that the bumpmasters might possibly have overplayed their hand here:
McGruder isn't advocating paranoid delusional racist fantasies. He's presenting a parody of paranoid delusional racist fantasies.
Are Parker & Stone advocating Cartman's paranoid delusional racist fantasies? No, of course not. Cartman is a parody.
Boondocks _is_ South Park, except that McGruder comes from the angsty/black/urban side instead of the funny/white/rural side. I'm glad to see his perspective.
People say McGruder is a left-wing kind of guy, but he says he isn't, and I believe him. He doesn't like the Bush administration; well, so? I doubt Parker & Stone like it either. McGruder's show is all that counts here, and it isn't left-leaning; if anything, it goes too far the other way.
In the first episode, the most sympathetic characters-- the ones who are friendly, honest, and cool-- are white, and the least sympathetic characters-- the ones who are cruel, dishonest, and uptight-- are black.
If anything, I hope McGruder becomes a little more moderate in his treatment of his lead characters in the show, as he is in the comic strip. Huey and Riley need to seem just a little nicer, a little less like knee-jerk radicals to give the TV audience a reason to care about them.
Other than that, I'm entirely satisfied with this show.
Well, the [as] guys sure seem convinced that the show is made for "their side", if those bumps are any indication. That's what really gets me: more than the show itself, the way it's being packaged is just abhorrent. Maybe that's because the bumpmasters are totally misinterpreting it; I don't know. But having followed the comic strip for years, I have a hard time convincing myself that Huey is being presented as an anti-hero rather than the author's voice. The shot of Huey as Che Guevara in the title sequence is in-character, true, but it's also in keeping with what the strip's presented over the years.
Maybe that just means McGruder's done a great job of building up a smokescreen over his true intentions. It seems to me the danger (to him) is that everyone will misinterpret him, rather than everyone giving him the benefit of the doubt.
In any event, I understand your observations, I've considered them myself since last night (I didn't get a lot of sleep), and I've tried to square those interpretations with the way the show is packaged. You can list off a lot of agreeable and refreshing developments: the Evil Cheney-esque Real Estate Guy finding common ground with Granddad at the end of the episode, for example. The obviously over-the-top, dystopic, and unsympathetic view of the world through the crosshairs of Huey's gun (the smiling cop seen as a step away from a Rodney King beating; the laser sight fixed on everyone and everything white). The silly thing about cheese. But I have to wonder how to reconcile the idea of the Real Estate Guy being a sympathetic character with the seemingly unchallenged description of the 9/11 conspiracy as "truth", or the back-from-Iraq son's moronic bombast, or all the garden-party attendees patronizing the kids with "You speak so well" (a joke lifted from Chris Rock talking about Colin Powell), or the self-hating black guy being given so much screen time in what feels like a venting of the author's rage at such people. And there's the general thematic idea—or at least this is how I interpreted it—of the shamefulness of "acting white", or of selling out one's identity for baubles like a nice house and financial opportunity. I get the feeling McGruder would rather America never become truly colorblind, because tribalism is more important to him than a shared set of national values, and he seems fetishistically fixated on the idea of a suburban America that's far more racist than I've ever experienced it to be. I think that's what seeps through the veneer of the show's various devices.
I don't know—the show's done a good job of making us have to second-guess it to figure out what it's really saying, and that's an achievement. But if Boondocks is really a masterful parody of the views its lead character espouses, either the [as] folks are drastically missing the point, or they know something we don't.
I submitted a tongue-in-cheek bump idea last night that plays on the "self-parody" angle, just to see if it could get a rise out of the bumpmasters:
Dear [adult swim],
Thanks to Boondocks, I've changed sides. I'll be voting Republican from now on.
If McGruder's insulting, paranoid screed is any indication of how Democrats view racial issues, it looks like the only way to achieve a colorblind, hate-free society is to vote against them.
Nice job, guys. And thanks for ruining this wonderful block with politics.
So undoubtedly there'll be a firestorm touched off in the boards, if nowhere else; but if you're right about Boondocks, the bumpmasters will have to realize they made a serious miscalculation.
Saturday, November 5, 2005
18:04 - For God's sake, don't change anything! That would threaten "progress"!
There was a guy on the streetcorner today on the way to the store, in a suit and a Schwarzenegger mask, waving a sign that said, "I WANT TO SHUT... YOU UP!"
Clever, I suppose, as long as you're an SNL fan. But for someone who's had to sit through all the interminable radio ads for Proposition 75, which the guy is referring to, it's a little less than persuasive.
The proposition amounts to making it so union members having their dues used for political campaigns is an opt-in process, not an opt-out one. That's it.
Union members would have to give their okay for their dues to be used by the union leaders in political campaign contributions. So allegedly, union members would be given the extra opportunity to have their money used according to their own wishes, if they were to do something so brash as (gasp!) support a candidate or measure other than what the union supports.
But of course that's not the aspect that the radio ads focus on. According to them, this is a nefarious scheme by Arnie to "shut unions up".
Which I guess is an admission that the union members who would now have to take the thirty seconds to check the "opt-in" box on their union mailings are too lazy to do so.
According to the ads, if 75 passes, "It'll be like the bad old days out here. People getting hurt, no health coverage..." why, before you know it, the weekend will be abolished and we'll have eight-year-olds working in textile mills again. All because they made us have to opt-in for the unions to give our money to the campaigns they support.
To a point, it's transparent that there's more behind the proposition than giving union members more choice. Schwarzenegger's stated goal with this proposition, or at least with the agenda of which it's a part, is to break down the impenetrable defenses of the California public teacher's union—so that incompetent teachers can be fired instead of being given Special Person's Tenure. Which might, just might, do something about the fact that California is 46th in the country when it comes to the smartness of our kids.
Wouldn't want those kids to grow up smart enough to be able to make a check mark in a little box on a union mailing. Or read the necessary cheerleading boilerplate on the mailing and decide for themselves whether they agree with it.
Let alone to be able to get good enough jobs that they don't need unions.
UPDATE: It's a shame that 75's proponents can't use any of the argumentative tactics or rhetorical devices that are available to its opponents. After all, if it weren't for the fact that the unions' contributions go by default toward the Democratic side of things, a Democrat governor could have proposed this very same bill and couched it as being all about workers' rights to control their political voices without fear of retribution.
Under an opt-out system, as it is now, the unions don't have to sell the idea of using member dues for campaign contributions to the workers whose money they're using. They don't even have to make it very clear to them that they can opt-out. There's no incentive for them to do so—quite the contrary. And if they sent everyone a mailing with a detachable form with a check-box on it and a signature line, saying, "Please check here and sign here and return the card if you don't want us using your money to contribute to the candidates we like"—it's easy to see why a worker wouldn't want to do so, even if he strenuously disagreed with who or what the union was endorsing. Those little signed cards become an instant dossier of union members who aren't "team players"; if the union in question has even the slightest bullying tendency, it could then go right down the handy list and make life very difficult for everyone who signed his name. And even if they weren't inclined to be so "gangland", the signed cards or the mailings could always be "mysteriously lost". Who's to say the person sent in the opt-out card? The union never received it. Funny, that.
But if the system is changed to opt-in, then the union has to advertise. It has to make sure those mailings get to the members. It has to make sure the members are sold on the candidates or propositions it wants to spend their money on. It has to convince members to let them use that money. And if a signed and checked-off card is "mysteriously lost", why, that's the worker's prerogative, not the union's. A worker who doesn't want to opt-in, and who doesn't want to be identified as a dissenter in the ranks, can exercise that right by simply throwing out the mailing. Who's to say he ever received it? Funny, that.
The unions currently opposing the proposition (using, naturally, all their members' money, as under current rules they can) can't argue from the standpoint of "protecting workers' voices" or "preventing union bullying". Those perspectives aren't on their side. But neither is it on the side of a Republican governor, who nobody would believe would have introduced the proposition for those reasons alone. So they have to go with the "Arnie's shutting you up" angle, and the "We're all going to get our arms chopped off by unsafe power tools and we won't have any health insurance to pay for it" angle. Which are powerful, but disingenuous.
All it'll "shut up" are the people who agree with their unions only by default or against their will. And is that such a terrible thing? For anyone except the union leaders, I mean?
Sony presses forward its own front in the video democratization war:
Sony Electronics Inc. announced Thursday that it has expanded support for its LocationFree wireless multimedia network into its PlayStation Portable (search) handheld gaming devices.
The San Diego-based unit of Sony Corp. said that PSP owners will now be able to use LocationFree (search) to stream TV programs or movies over a broadband Internet connection into the gaming device.
In order to begin accessing the services, a PSP must be updated with the latest version of Sony's device management software, Firmware 2.5, which can be downloaded either wirelessly or over a PC.
The upgrade allows PSPs linked with LocationFree to access video and audio content via Wi-Fi (search) hot spots with broadband access, such as those now commonly found in hotels and airports.
Steven Den Beste sends this link, and asks:
What they're talking about is this guy:
Despite what this article says, it doesn't seem to support DVDs. What it supports is "UMD" (Universal Media Disc), which is a proprietary Sony video format on a proprietary 6-cm diameter medium. (Somehow or other they managed to pack 1.8 gigabytes onto that sucker.)
However, it does have a USB 2 interface, and you can buy USB 2 DVD drives. (I've got one, in fact.) With the right software, it might well be able to play DVDs, and the display is big enough to make it reasonable. Anyway, UMD video will be scaled for its display even if it can't play true DVDs.
The display is 4.3 inch diagonal, 16:9 ratio, 480*272 pixels, true 24-bit color. I think that for portable video that would be more than acceptable.
LocationFree seems to be a WiFi/Internet gateway with a big disk on it. You can store data on it, and access it via WiFi in your home. If you're on the road, and can get WiFi Internet access with the PSP you use it to dial into your LocationFree "base station" to access your data anyway. Description here:
My guess is that this is more or less Sony's equivalent of the Mac Mini.
So does Sony have a winning combination here? Does Apple need to be concerned?
Maybe. I couldn't say for sure until I saw where Apple plans to go with the whole video thing. It's fairly clear that where things stand right now isn't the final realization of some grand plan. A 2.5", 4:3 screen is simply not a movie-watching solution, no matter how self-contained it is. And in that sense, the iPod Video isn't intended to compete with stuff like the PSP in the first place, just as it isn't intended to compete with portable dedicated DVD players. Nor do I think Apple wants to try to go head-to-head with something you have to hook up to an external DVD drive, or try to cram Wi-Fi into the iPod. (They got rid of FireWire presumably so they could shave off the volume consumed by that one extra chip on the board, and thus make it thinner still. Keeping the package small and the feature set streamlined is still the primary concern behind the iPod. Otherwise they could have just turned it into an über-PDA, like people have been suggesting since 2001.)
I persist in thinking the iPod Video is a sideshow, something to keep people distracted and happy while Apple readies whatever will be sold at www.apple.com/movies.
There is one specific DVD player that I will not be unhappy to see replaced with an iPod with video! The portable unit that I carry in the car for long car trips with the kids. It's got 2 separate screen that you can attach to the back of the headrests so the kids can watch a movie. However, there is no good place to put the DVD player unit. You can't put it back into the case because it overheats, you cant lay it on the floor of the back seat because the kids will spill and drop stuff on it, you can't stuff it down between the seats as then you can't get to it to push buttons! I have already tested the video out from the iPod running the 2 little 7" LCD screens and it works great. So I'm copying all the kids favorite movies over to the iPod right now! Another thing the iPod has as an advantage over those in car DVD players, even the built in ones, are the controls. Have you ever tried getting through the previews and hitting the right menu item to actually get the movie to play in a car where the screen for the player is designed so that it cannot be seen from the front seat so that you wont be tempted to watch while driving? You can't do it while you're driving thats for sure. But if I have an iPod connected to the remote screens, I can select the movie and play it and then put it back into the arm rest or charger/holder or wherever and not have to worry about the dumb DVD menus.
The iPod is a fair site better than a DVD player in those applications.
While I wouldn't want to watch full movies on the built in screen, I'll be handing it to my daughter on an airplane soon and she will be happy to watch the latest episode of Rolie Polie Olie while we fly to see Grandma. And that means that I can keep my computer screen for my own use instead of just using it as a glorified DVD player while sitting next to her.
Communists rally in San Francisco, France threatens to become the flashpoint of a European civil war, and TBS gathers today's top comics for an environmental-themed stand-up-a-thon charmingly titled "Earth to America".
Good thing it's Friday. I don't know if I could take much more of this cheerful festive atmosphere on a work night.
Many have been the mocked-up claimants to that moniker over the years, but this time it seems it's for real: a company that's about to jump on the video iPod bandwagon in the same manner that the really astute have jumped onto the bandwagon of every new art form and medium since the cave painting:
LONDON - It may not be quite what Steve Jobs had in mind, but an online search engine called Guba is set to offer vast amounts of pornography and other video files, specifically tailored for Apple's new iPods.
Guba is a subscription-only search engine that culls video files from the Usenet newsgroups, a huge repository of online content — much of it adult, pirated, or both.
Beginning this month, Guba will convert video files from Usenet into the format used by the iPod, known as H.264. Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched the video-enabled iPod last month along with deals to sell downloadable music videos and TV shows.
What I find interesting about this, in all seriousness, is that the company is doing this without any DRM, from what I can tell. The video content isn't copyrighted, apparently—it's just what's already available on Usenet—and the company just charges a subscription fee so you can download these unencrypted files as much as you want, with nothing tying them to a single person's authorized computers (as with the iTunes DRM for both audio and video).
This wasn't possible with music—a company that offered to let you download MP3s for a monthly subscription fee would have met a swift and unmerciful end, largely because there's hardly any such thing as an MP3 file of anything but copyrighted music. But the video medium works differently. Watchable video files of copyrighted content are too large to trade comfortably, and files that are small enough to hoard are usually ad-hoc affairs—home movies, Internet memes, that sort of thing. There's plenty of video out there that isn't jealously guarded by copyright holders; and all it has to be in order to play on the video iPod is a QuickTime file.
If this company's business plan catches on, it'll do for QuickTime what the same sort of content did for VHS versus Betamax.
It reads like an Onion parody, but it is real. Here's the :
Process of relaying a story having a unique plot
A process of relaying a story having a timeline and a unique plot involving characters comprises: indicating a character's desire at a first time in the timeline for at least one of the following: a) to remain asleep or unconscious until a particular event occurs; and b) to forget or be substantially unable to recall substantially all events during the time period from the first time until a particular event occurs; indicating the character's substantial inability at a time after the occurrence of the particular event to recall substantially all events during the time period from the first time to the occurrence of the particular event; and indicating that during the time period the character was an active participant in a plurality of events.
I have to say. They have at last invented a way to destroy all cultural development forevermore. That's an achievement of a sort.
That's right: they're patenting storylines now. Well, not even storylines—the means by which to sue over storylines.
If I know my clichés, there will be seven of these granted.
Steven Den Beste sends this link, with the observation that "Apparently the hip term is vlog":
"While we’re digging, here’s one more relevant tidbit: The Diggnation guys said that as soon as iTunes started promoting vlogs, the video version of Diggnation immediately racked up more downloads than the audio version."
Very interesting. Although it strikes me that this could have unforeseen consequences in the dynamics of blog evolution. Regardless of how easy the technology makes it to create multimedia bits on the disk, video is way harder to do well than audio, and audio is way harder to do well than text.
But the demand is there. So this may be a built-in oligopolizing influence on those blogs that can also podcast and vlog well enough to get fans.
But it also strikes me that if the linked and quoted story is at all representative, this could be a huge shot in the arm for QuickTime. WMV videos won't play in iTunes, after all...
Apple was working on this feature in the betas of Tiger, but it didn't make it into the initial release: iChat encryption. And now it's here with 10.4.3.
Presumably the thing they couldn't get working right was the UI. In the Tiger betas, you had to request a .Mac SSL certificate using a button in the .Mac prefs, and then iChat would go authenticate through that. Pretty clunky, if iChat was the only thing the certificate would be good for; but it would have also enabled other encrypted services, though what they might be I'm not sure (Webmail and so on go through normal SSL/TLS).
Well, now apparently they've decided that the flexibility of having the .Mac certificate available for other features isn't that important, and iChat now has certification built right in. The first time you launch it under 10.4.3 you now get this:
Hitting "Continue" with this checkbox enabled transparently requests the .Mac cert, installs it, and registers iChat with it, so you don't even have to know it's going on. And now the preferences have this:
Pretty hard to go wrong with that. Now, both parties have to have a certificate set up before encrypted communications will work, and an iChat user has to do the certificate through .Mac; I believe AIM has encryption already, but it's unclear whether a .Mac cert will interoperate with an AIM one. Seems it would be a pretty dumb feature if it didn't.
Overall, 10.4.3 seems to have its ups and downs. Chris reports that neither of his two pending bugs have been fixed, and they introduced a new "keep waking from sleep for no reason" one in the bargain (I'm testing this one on my home machine now). They also didn't address a few of my bugaboos, like Mail not properly deleting all my old expired Junk/Trash mail from the IMAP server. But they did fix my "Tab key creates four spaces in Mail instead of, you know, a tab" bug—I saw it had been closed as a Duplicate the day after I submitted it, so apparently I'm not the only one it drove up the wall.
This was a huge update, bug-count-wise; I just hope I find a lot more of them fixed that I'm not really aware of already.
(And if SSL certificates are handled this smoothly in iChat, is it too much to ask for Mail to be able to permanently accept my self-signed IMAPS cert so I don't have to dismiss that warning dialog every single time I launch it?)
I guess the Steve has this to say to the doubters:
CUPERTINO, California—October 31, 2005—Apple® today announced that iTunes® Music Store customers have purchased and downloaded more than one million videos since they debuted on October 12. Customers can choose from over 2,000 music videos, Pixar short films and hit TV shows for just $1.99. Top downloads include music videos from Michael Jackson, Fatboy Slim and Kanye West; Pixar’s “For the Birds” and “Boundin’”; and episodes of ABC’s hit TV shows “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”
“Selling one million videos in less than 20 days strongly suggests there is a market for legal video downloads,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Our next challenge is to broaden our content offerings, so that customers can enjoy watching more videos on their computers and new iPods.”
Broaden the content offerings? What? You mean five shows isn't enough to hold us?
Still, with that small a content selection, plus of course all those music videos, to reach a million downloads this quickly (at $2 a pop) is certainly no small potatoes. It's pretty clear now that this video venture has up till now been just a testing of the waters, a low-risk minor extension of the technology to see how things sold. True, the video iPod is no slouch of a technical leap, but even if video downloads had proved to be a bomb, at least it would mean they would still have a much nicer and more symmetrical iPod product lineup than the old, confused "iPod/iPod photo/iPod mini/iPod shuffle" agglomeration. This success just validates the idea and gives Apple the go-ahead to build on it. And there's nowhere to go but up. Damien Del Russo writes:
This is going to be big! You might think about putting some amount long in AAPL stock. They are up 67% after more than doubling last year, and their products have a lot of growth to go. Companies like Tivo have got to be quaking in their boots if Apple is muscling into television shows with a completely new viewing model. It's certainly an aggressive play but they have shown the ability to monetize music better than anyone, and monetizing television could be just massive. It's not even about the video iPod - that's more of a bonus. Being able to legally download television to your computer is pretty cool and definitely worth $2 per episode.
I've got some AAPL that I bought at $63. Today the stock is at $57, and that's after a split. The value has almost doubled in the past year. But I ain't selling.