She Ain’t Comin’ Either

Hearken back a few days to where Freeman Hunt visited us for a discussion on her post called “He Isn’t Coming”, where she discussed how our culture wasn’t producing the sort of great men needed to rescue us from the disaster currently being visited upon us.

My argument is that you don’t need very many great men like that, and that societies never do create very many in that mold. Though we’re not producing the sort of people who appreciate greatness, either, and that’s a more severe problem.

However, the treatment of Sarah Palin from September to her current resignation shows something else: should someone relatively honest, authentic and reform-minded appear, she will be destroyed.

I don’t believe there’s any scandal, as some are salivating at the prospect of. The entire brunt of the mainstream media was brought to bear in trying to bring her down after she resuscitated the moribund McCain campaign–and then insisting, despite all evidence, that she had somehow hurt McCain–and nothing was found. Then there were trumped up ethics charge after trumped up ethics charge was brought against her, all of them defeated, but costing her over $400,000 in legal fees.

Palin doesn’t even qualify, in terms of what Freeman was specifying: She didn’t know Latin or Greek, for example. And I suspected she might have a bit of a populist streak. (“Populism” always seems to be another way of saying “big government”, perversely.) But before the media tore her apart, it was fairly uncontroversial that she had rejected the business-as-usual politics, and actually done some housecleaning.

She seems to have the essential character, in other words, that puts Freem’s education and moral ideas to proper use. Note that I reject strongly the media projections of her as stupid. This is just SOP for the handling of Republican Presidential material: They’re either stupid (GW Bush, Reagan, Ford, Eisenhower, Palin) or evil madmen (Cheney, GHW Bush, Nixon, Agnew, Goldwater). Oh, and “out of touch” (McCain, GHW Bush, Reagan, Eisenhower, and, well, pretty much all of them). Actually, I give the media some credit for spicing it up last election by allowing that McCain might simply be a well-meaning madman as opposed to an evil one. (Though there were plenty of implications that he was evil, too.)

But even that modicum of ability is not to be tolerated.

What’s more, I suspect a person of greater ability would be even more excoriated. So, if you’re keeping score at home, not only does “our hero” have to be a great intellect, charismatic, come from all the “right places”, perfect in behvaior, have no family members who have ever fallen short of any ideals, have a ton of money to fight up the frivolous lawsuits–and then give a damn about the country–and the people in it–that allows this to happen.

I’m less sanguine than I was yesterday.

The Only Thing Worse Than…

I can’t remember if it’s a lawyer that’s worse than a journalist or a journalist that’s worse than a lawyer, in Troop’s book, but I find, for a long time, that I blame journalists not so much for the job they do, but for the job they don’t do.

Just for example, education has been in a crisis since I was born. We see the effects of this crisis every day. Why do people put up with it? If only there were a group dedicated to, you know, reporting on these problems and putting them in the proper perspective (versus, say, focusing on random crimes)!

I mean, think about it for a second: What problem do we have that persists simply because those whose job would be to shine a light on it, and to beat the drum about it are too busy with trivialities–partisan politics aside? (The press certainly did this–continues to do it–in its more “conservative” forms, even though liberals dominate.)

I wanted to write a lot more about it, but for now, I just want to reference this, courtesy Protein Wisdom. I disagree with the notion that the turning of the press into a party apparatus is “organic”, but the why is secondary to undoing the damage.

Check it out!

Andy Marken’s “Content Insider”

Andy’s got another post up at Google Docs.

It’s all about storage. This is interesting to me because it dovetails nicely with some other thoughts previously expressed here.

It doesn’t really make sense for everyone to store everything. Maybe it might if storage were–let’s say–3 magnitudes more capable than currently. You know, intsead of going high-end for a terabyte you were going high end for a petabyte. That would be enough to store a few hundred thousand movies, all the music you could eat, all your photos. They could boost resolution to make even this untenable but if MP3s are good enough–and they seem to be for most people–I imagine the current (non-high-def) definition formats are probably also good enough.

The popular mis-interpretation of Moore’s “Law” has it that processor speeds double every 18 months which, if it held for storage, would mean we’d be “only” 15 years from that kind of storage. I was going to say that it doesn’t, but thinking back, 300GB (2008)->300MB (1993)->300KB(1978) works.

So, maybe it will happen. Still, if I were a content provider, I’d be focused on charging nominal fees to provide it to people and not worrying about what they did with it after I provided it. I’d just make my own service easier to use than a pirate’s.

More on DVD vs. VHS

Searching through the referrals (a lot of you seem to come here because someone linked from an e-mail, which makes me feel oddly self-conscious), I saw someone linked to the VHS vs DVD post.

That lead me to this anti-DVD post. Now the post is about seven years old, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The main four points he brings up are:

1. DVD vs. VHS picture quality.

In absolute terms, there’s a point here. A perfect VHS tape was pretty good visually, and Beta was even better. But we all had experiences with less than perfect tapes.

2. DVD vs. VHS sound quality.

The guy (wrongly, I believe) claims that DVD sound is not (potentially) better. I’m pretty sure you can’t get surround sound out of VHS, but I think that’s a matter of no spec being available.

3. DVD vs. VHS longevity.

In a vaccuum, DVD will last longer. But nobody lives in a vaccuum.

4. DVD vs. VHS special features.

The guy trashes these because he doesn’t like them, which isn’t really relevant. Some folks do like them. They are “value added” material just obviously based on the fact that people buy them. And skipping around on a DVD is way easier than it was on VHS.

None of this is as compelling as the DVD hawkers would have you believe, and of course they’re trying–far less successfully–to sell people on high-definition DVDs. But at some point “more” just isn’t compelling; there is such a thing as “enough”.

HD-DVD Post-Mortem

Andy Marken has google-doc’ed his latest “Content Insider”, this one on the death of HD-DVD.

It’s not really a glowing endorsement of Blu-Ray (nor should it be) nor is it a rose-colored prediction for the download market (nor should it be).

Andy hits the nail on the head when he says:

The stability of a single format may help push sales up but consumers as economists delicately say are still …price conscious.

Convince me that I should pay $29 for a high-def version of I Know Who Killed Me instead of the $6 version that’s in the bin at Wal-Mart. Anyone?

He uses Raiders of the Lost Ark for his central movie reference, but to me the a propos line comes from Men In Black, when Tommy Lee Jones looks at this new storage format and sighs:

This is gonna replace CD’s soon; guess I’ll have to buy the White Album again…

Unfortunately, the big guys have made a business model out of selling us the same stuff over and over again. But critical to being able to do this is:

  1. Buy Congress to keep extending copyright
  2. Never actually sell anything to anyone

Old Walt Disney’s 40 years dead, but his corporation controls Mickey Mouse to this day. (Keep in mind that copyright has, as its sole purpose, the fostering of creative works. It’s been well perverted to prevent that.)

#2 is one near and dear to my heart. I pay huge sums of money to get a cable signal into my house. I’m forced to pay to get what I want, because I can’t get just what I want, I have to get everything that my cable company needs to satisfy their business model. Meaning I pay for hundreds of channels I never use.

But despite paying for that signal, the cable companies go through considerable effort to make it so that you can’t do with that signal what you will. The signal coming through the cable is encrypted, sometimes in defiance of law. Even if you have a cable box and run things through that, they’ll encrypt the signal coming out of the Federally-required-but-often-not-activated firewire port.

In short, you can plug that cable into your TV or into an “approved” recorder, most likely one that they lease you. Don’t like it? Tough luck. You get what you’re given. Don’t like it? Bitch to the FCC. (They might respond.They might not.) Just because you pay for it–and handsomely–doesn’t mean you actually own anything. Not even the right to view things when you please, like you used to with VCRs.

Though, if you’re lucky, you can get a reduced quality version of your cable box’s output.

How’s that for a mixed message? We want you to demand high-definition stuff! But, uh, we don’t really have the capacity (or the drive, it seems) to give it to you the way you want it. So, here, have crap.

If history holds true, technology will break their backs, and they’ll get rich as a result. And then, when the next big tech thing comes along, they’ll fight that to the death, as well.

(Click on the HTPC links to see my efforts to build a fully-functioning hi-def Home Theater PC.)