g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Friday, November 18, 2005
14:25 - I wondered when they'd do this

(top)
The "cootie catcher" episode of South Park was pretty much a pointless yawner from what I could see, and I wondered if they'd put all their eggs into the season-opener basket with the whole "global warming/Katrina" business that got SomethingAwful's Zack Parsons all up in a wad. Well, considering this week's new entry, I don't think they've fizzled at all.

They took on Scientology, something that few in Hollywood are willing to do, considering a) how many movie stars are Scientologists, and b) what the Church of Scientology has managed to do to intimidate and crush efforts like Operation Clambake. After a lengthy segment in the middle where the Church's core tenets are carefully illustrated in South Park's best construction-paper-esque animation (with overlaid text saying THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE), Parker and Stone end the episode with Stan angrily defying the audience—the on-screen audience of Scientologist acolytes, but any of their compatriots in the real audience, too—"Sue me! I dare you! Come on—sue me!" The end.

And then the credits roll:

Executive Producer:
JOHN SMITH

Associate Producers:
JOHN SMITH
JOHN SMITH

Animators:
JOHN SMITH
JOHN SMITH
JANE SMITH
JOHN SMITH

...And so on. Marvelous.

Considering that xenu.net hasn't been taken forcibly off the air anytime recently, I have to wonder if Scientology's iron grip on its publicity has been loosened. They're finding out as vividly as any copyright holder that the Internet doesn't just forget things (much though they might gamely attempt to force it to). They might realize that it's a losing battle now that all the information they would otherwise charge for or attempt to keep bottled up is out on the Web, and I strongly doubt that Parker and Stone will find themselves the targets of a lawsuit. Though if they did, it'd probably be pretty funny. I'm sure Comedy Central has lawyers just as high-powered as the Scientologists do. Besides, it's good business.

I assumed South Park would eventually get to tackling the Scientologists; I'm just sort of surprised it's taken them this long to get up the nerve.

I'm just glad they didn't turn it into a "Ha ha, we fooled you, try seeing things from the perspective of the guys we're mocking" stunt like they did (to great effect) with their episode that assaulted Mormonism. Sometimes these guys do follow through with exactly what it looks like they're setting out to do. Helps keep us guessing.

And for what it's worth, I have to say that without SomethingAwful, I'd never have known what the deal was with that whole R. Kelly/"trapped in the closet" business.

UPDATE: This right here is quite a site, especially for military history buffs. L. Ron Hubbard makes John Kerry look like Rambo.

UPDATE: Heh—check out Xenu TV, especially if you missed the SP episode.

This is a real test of whether Scientology or Comedy Central has the better lawyers: who'll get to it first?


14:08 - Keepin' it fresh

(top)
Chipotle has new cup designs. Just to keep us on our toes, and to keep challenging the assumption some people seem to have that just because it's a McDonald's property there's got to be some deal-killing flaw in it somewhere.

My cup, which discusses secret unlisted menu items, says this:

As you consider your order, we invite you to embrace the variety, wallow in the options, imagine the permutations and combinations. Whatever makes it great for you.

I swear—only Chipotle could get away with making a math joke on a cup.

I love this place.

Thursday, November 17, 2005
13:13 - How well do genies compress?
http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1886910,00.asp

(top)
ExtremeTech is calling Apple's bluff. How-to coverage this mainstream, Apple will have to counter with either one of the biggest and most unpopular legal blitzes in history, or they'll just have to suck it up and take it with a grin:

Building a Mac seems like a crazy enough idea. Throw in Intel hardware and the men in white suits should be rounding the corner. Yet the unfortunate leak of an early developer build let anyone do just that—anyone willing to risk the wrath of Apple's famous lawyers, that is. We risk it for you, and weigh the new platform's pros and cons.

Either Apple's planning on releasing the Intel Macs with some new kind of DRM not yet seen outside Sony's fever dreams, or they're figuring that moving to Intel just naturally entails a certain amount of piracy, an amount they're willing to deal with. After all, the number of people who are actually willing to build a computer to this article's specifications and install a cracked copy of Marklar has got to be a vanishingly small percentage of Apple's revenue base, right? People who would do this wouldn't have spent money on a Mac in the first place.

I'm leaning toward the latter option here. Apple's got to know that just about any DRM solution they come up with will eventually be cracked. They knew this with iTunes; the DRM for that was cracked early this year. But have we heard hide or hair of that scandal since then? I sure haven't; and I believe that's because they know that even if an iTunes hack gets into the wild, the vast majority of customers will still find it worthwhile to use the Music Store legitimately. It's still the path of least resistance; it's still more attractive to the casual consumer than hacking.

So it'll be with the Intel Macs, or so I hope. These guys understand how file-sharing works; they've got to, from all their iTunes experience, and their demonstrated understanding of how to make a legal download service viable even in a world of ubiquitous P2P apps. They know—and I'm sure they have known all along—that expecting the Intel builds to stay in-bounds forever, under fear of nothing but an NDA, is laughably naïve. They've got to know this will happen to the real thing sooner or later. If you want to fiddle around and get a taste of OS X, sure, you'll probably be able to. But if you want a real Mac, with support and bundled apps and integrated hardware features, you just might think it worth your while to buy one.

That all said, though, this article is great fun. Heh: "Sluggo's Revenge."

UPDATE: Intel iBooks in January.

UPDATE: In e-mail discussing the feasibility of hardware-based security solutions, Peter writes:

I don't think the major motivation here is piracy-- or DRM, for that matter.
It's about keeping customer data secure, which is much more valuable to the
PC market today.

FileVault is my favorite feature of Mac OS X because it gives me a high
degree of confidence that my data will not fall into the wrong hands if my
PowerBook is lost or stolen. But if someone gains access to my machine while
it's running, by exploiting some security hole or just by turning on file
sharing when I'm not watching, FileVault can't help.

Any process on my machine can access most of my data, and by logging
keystrokes and exploiting relatively minor vulnerabilities, my PowerBook can
become an open book. That makes me nervous.

Imagine how much worse it must be for CIOs at hospitals and law firms, where
customer data are protected by law. Or at high-tech companies, where source
code and chip design databases are worth literally billions of dollars.

Microsoft isn't going to have strong server security before 2008 (my guess)
and client security will likely take a few years longer; Windows legacy
software issues are very difficult to deal with. Apple could make strong
security a basic feature of the x86 transition, or perhaps the x86-64
transition that will follow shortly after.

If Apple can stake out a position as the only PC vendor with strong security
across its whole product line-- even if this advantage lasts just two
years-- it could take over a large part of the enterprise computing market.

Apple could have done all this stuff itself, but it's cheaper to let Intel
develop the necessary hardware in parallel with the software effort at
Apple. Whether this is actually what's going on, I have no idea, but I know
some of the people who do this sort of strategic planning over there, and
I'm sure they haven't missed the potential opportunity to pick up 20% of the
PC market in the next four years...

That would be quite a coup. First .Mac becomes infrastructural reality before anyone gets anywhere with .NET; then Tiger beats Longhorn/WinFS to the punch and DB-query-style searching will be old news by the time Windows gets it. For their next trick, Apple could out-Palladium Palladium...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
13:52 - And another thing, consarn it

(top)
Here's something that's been bugging me for a while now:



(I don't mean to pick on FoxTrot, but it's as good an example as any.)

Now, I don't know if I'm just not watching my TV right, but what shows are they that resemble logo-splattered billboards all half-hour long? Where are these indoctrinating endorsement-fests that everyone's always so up in arms about?

Whether it's CSI, or Everybody Loves Raymond, or South Park, or Trading Spaces, I'm afraid I have yet to see the episodes that are such obvious shills for sponsors' products. Quite the contrary, in fact. When characters in any of these shows are shown eating potato chips, the show goes out of its way to identify them as some unnamed or nonexistent brand. When there's a computer in the scene, they airbrush out the logo. When they're driving a car, you could easily expect the camera to do a long loving sweep from street level up to the cab, lingering over the logo and the nameplate, but it doesn't—car scenes are always brand-agnostic and anonymous. I can't even think of a single counterexample I've seen in recent memory, where it wasn't an obvious plot point for a car to be a Ferrari or a Hummer or something that defines it as a pop-culture icon rather than as a brand that needs advertising.

Sure, there are a lot of Macs in movies, as has been noted here and elsewhere—but do those appearances count as advertisements? I mean, come on—seriously. It would be an advertisement if a character using the computer made explicit comments in dialogue describing how much better a Mac was than other computers, or if the fact that it was a Mac played a prominent or active role in any plot point. But it never does. Ever. Instead, the Macs in scene are there only as decorations, because the scene required a computer and the director thought Macs looked cool and/or appropriate to the scene.

You know, because sometimes there are computers in places where people work, in real life. Imagine that. Imagine, further: sometimes people eat potato chips. And sometimes people drive cars. If you're going to try to present a show that depicts reality to any degree at all, you're going to want to show people enjoying products; and you know, it's far easier to just have them drinking a Coke that some PA bought from the studio vending machine than to have the prop department make up a can of a fictitious cola brand and have the dialogue tiptoe around what it is, like in that atrocious censored-for-TV version of Disney's Flight of the Navigator where Carolyn asked David, "Do you want New Cola, Classic Cola, Diet Cola, Cherry Cola, or Diet Caffeine-Free Cola?" —all spliced horribly and in a completely different voice over the original line that had "Coke" instead of all occurrences of "Cola". Apparently Coca-Cola not only didn't care significantly about the prospect of having its brand shoved under kids' noses, the company thought the gentle mockery implied in it was so objectionable they refused even to allow Disney to leave the line in without hastily spackling it over.

(And that movie's about the most blatant example I could bring up of one that does pepper the audience with then-current product slogans—a plot point being that an alien spaceship had absorbed all of 1986's TV programming memes out of a kid's head in order to learn about human culture. Even then, the slogans are strewn out of context and as jokes. I unnacountably did not have the desire to go eat a Big Mac after the spaceship recited the "Two all beef patties" slogan at me.)

I mean, hell, even the shows and movies that use Macs have to pay Apple for the right to show them, not the other way around. What kind of "advertising" is it that takes place against the company's will?

What is it that society wants of its entertainment? It's become an article of faith that all TV shows and movies are jam-packed with insidious subliminal messages urging us to go out and buy branded consumables. But if you remember the scene in Wayne's World where Wayne and Garth keep exaggeratedly turning to the camera to shill like paid spokespeople for Nuprin and Doritos and Reebok, what makes that scene so funny is that it resembles nothing we'd ever seen on the screen before outside of actual ads.

... But maybe I'm just fooling myself, and they're all just a lot more sneaky than I can even detect, huh?

'Scuse me, I'm thirsty.

UPDATE: Okay... a number of e-mailers have pointed out various examples of what I'm missing. Apparently I am watching all the wrong shows. Then again, even Trading Spaces has that whole Home Depot thing going on, huh?

Still. I can't help but think our intellectual gagsmith caste is freaking out over nothing, and using played-out and exaggerated tropes as low-hanging ideas for time-filler jokes. Wouldn't be the first time.

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© Brian Tiemann