Big Love vs. The Latter Day Saints

The Mormon Church got a bit miffed by the HBO Series “Big Love” showing one of their private rituals as part of the show this season. I thought the church handled it correctly: They expressed their displeasure and distaste, but didn’t get all outrage-y. I also agree with their position: The ritual really shouldn’t have been used in this fashion. It’s profane (in the original sense of the word) and probably fundamentally misrepresented in some important way.

Now, having seen it, I think they treated it fairly reverently, given the profane starting point. Troop points out that Catholic ritual has been rigorously mocked, and that made him uncomfortable that this Mormon ritual was used. Did it draw laughs from viewers? I wonder.

I didn’t find it weird or risible, myself. And Barb’s crisis of faith touches on a lot of what Hector and I have been hashing through over the past few months, as far as the purpose of religions and the conditions that create binding pacts.

In this episode, Barb comes right up against the debate of religion versus spirituality. It is, of course, popular these days to say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” That’s a fairly natural outcome of our self-centered existence: It allows a person to profess to an interest higher than the material without most of the mockery that all religions endure.

The net benefit to society, however, is close to nil. Yet this is inverted in this episode of “Big Love”. The Henrickson family pursues a spirituality that isn’t Mormonism but isn’t one of the polygamous splinter cults either. Barb realizes her pursuit of spirituality gives her all the pitfalls of religion–she’s persecuted, mocked, she lives in fear, she’s blessed with a belief in eternity but cursed with fears about how it will play out–and none of the benefits, as she’s estranged from the group itself.

Still, I think it’s important to remember not to take your ideas about a religion from a TV show. I’d be uncomfortable with a bunch of non-Mormons using my faith as a vehicle for soap opera if I were a church official.

Meine Dispatcher Tells Me There’s A Problem With Deine Kable?

The Cable Guy is here (shut up, he’s just fixing the cable) because I plugged in a TV into the HDMI port and got no audio. And then, when I plugged the old TV back in, certain channels came in scrambled.

It only happens with the HD channels coming through the component port, and only some of the channels. He’s baffled.

Me, I think it’s DRM. Somewhere in the “who’s got permission to do what” logic, they’ve screwed it up. Of course, this guy has no chance of figuring that out (if it’s true) since it’s buried somewhere in the logic of the cable box. The analog ports are all supposed to be open anyway, since older TVs don’t conform to any protection schemes.

But that’s just the paranoid rantings of someone who’s been banging his head against copy protection aimed at paying customers while the thieves run rampant.

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.)

Recommendations

Not mine. Others.

Althouse has a post up suggesting she’s going to abandon her tradition of live blogging AI which has sent Trooper York on a rampage. (And, seriously, the guy can rant: My quote of the day is “There are no atheists in funholes.”)

As I noted there, I skimmed past the AI entries because I don’t watch the show. I’ve come close, especially last season, between Althouse’s posts and the constant buzz on Sanjaya. But a lot about the show’s concept is off-putting.

And then I realize, I don’t generally take recommendations. A one-off has a shot, like a book or a movie. But series? I consider watching a TV series to be a commitment, and it’s one I easily neglect. The last regular network series I watched was “Law and Order”. That ended when they moved it from Wednesday night. I now watch exactly zero Big Three shows. On Fox, I catch “The Simpsons” occasionally.

It doesn’t help that I hate commercials, but a big factor is that the nets constantly move shows around. In this millennium I’ve watched the complete “Mind of the Married Man”, “Carnivale”, “Deadwood”, “Dead Like Me”, “!huff”, “John from Cincinnati”, “Rome” and “Dexter”. (Well, “Dexter” isn’t over yet but I imagine I’ll watch the third season, too, even with Doakes gone.)

I steel myself against commercials enough to put up with “Monk” and “psych!” on USA. (I think “Monk” should probably wrap up soon, though. Mystery series have some unique issues that I think tends to limit their longevity.)

What these shows all have in common is that they were (or are) always on at the same time (and it’s a convenient time for me). I’m willing to give any given TV series a try but I’m not really willing to chase it around. I used to love Vincent D’Onofrio’s scene chewing antics on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” but I haven’t recovered from it being moved to USA. I was trying to watch the latest incarnation ofDr. Who” but BBC America screwed that up.

With the exception of “Monk”, which I’m less dedicated as a viewer, all the shows mentioned are also short. I’m good for about 1-2 seasons of shows I really like. I watched the first season of “Seinfeld” and “Friends”. (Sitcoms have a very short shelf life for me.)

(The PVR may change all that, I dunno.)

I don’t think I’m all that rare in terms of lack-of-doggedness in the pursuit of TV. There are so, so many other things to do. (Unlike TV series, I do take book recommendations, just about any and all, so I’ve got a huge stack to get through.)

Kelly’s about the 40th person to recommend “Battlestar Galactica” to me. But will I watch it? Who knows?

The “re-imagining” I, of course, mean. I saw the original series (and the feature movie they made out of the pilot) several times over. But that was a long time ago.

Pride of Workmanship

The new cable box is pretty good, though it lacks some of the niceties of the old one.

One thing I can’t believe–makes me groan whenever I see it–is that the movie guide is in alphabetical order, but includes “The” as part of the sort.

So, you might see:

Amadeus
Batman
Dogma
The Apple Dumpling Gang
The Color Purple

(Sigh.) I’ve learned to accept the use of ASCII-like sorting, such that all the numbered entries appear at the top (40 Year Old Virgin should go in “F”), but this is just plain don’t-care-sloppiness.

The guide itself seems to have different content, and less guide info, including missing the information about when a program is going to stop being available.

Meanwhile, the new cable box takes, I’m told, 45 minutes to reboot. Let that sink in for moment. 45. Minutes. Actually, when we rebooted here, it took 4 hours, because it’s not just rebooting, it’s downloading information, and lots of people were apparently rebooting at the same time.

I can download many gigabytes in four hours. Why do I get the feeling that this particular application hasn’t been optimized?