Monday, January 29, 2007

Blasphemy Challenge redux

From the excellent PZ Myers:

John Kasich is a big fat idiot

I note the interesting implication in Kasich's questions (asking why Challenge-takers only go after Christianity, not Islam) that the creators of the Challenge have some have some kind of editorial control over the content of the videos. I'm not too sure what that says about the editorial standards at Fox -- did they just not do their research, or are they, as they so often do, intentionally distorting the facts? Or is this just another case of sectarian blindness, where the people saying the inaccuracies just don't get that other people don't do things the way they do?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Call me Johnny Penguinseed

I'm going to try something.

I've just burned four Knoppix CDs, the latest (5.1.1) version. The next four people I hear bitch about Microsoft Windows while I have my backpack with me will get copies.

I wonder how long it will take to get rid of them?

Friday, January 19, 2007

The musical equivalent of the Harriet Miers nomination

The Grammy folks nominated "My Humps" by Black Eyed Peas for best vocal performance by a duo or group. This constituted a great big dump taken by the record industry on any and every concept of good musical taste ever created.

And to prolong the agony, check out this link.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A sure sign I'm losing it

Let's see... I have a camcorder and a tripod. Now I'm trying to build a home TV studio for under $10. I might even be able to pull it off if I can find the proper mounting hardware in the garage -- I've already got a white sheet and a 150w-equivalent fluorescent bulb, total cost $6. Of course I also have a mountain of crap to move...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dragging my feet...

In theory, I'm all for the Blasphemy Challenge. I think it's a fine thing for the faithless to announce their faithlessness, since there's an awful lot of people who just don't get what it means to be without faith. I'm a little iffy about targeting teenagers, not because I don't think they can think for themselves, but because I think a lot of teenage faithless don't really understand the difference between anger at God and lack of belief. To the many teenagers that have taken the Blasphemy Challenge, I applaud their courage to take a stand on their beliefs (or lack thereof), but I also ask that they spend some time understanding why others don't believe, or they may find themselves sucked into the "what if I'm wrong?" trap. At the very least, such education can make you understand that while you might be wrong, there's a very good chance "they" (whoever "they" may be, depending on each individual's upbringing) are wrong as well.

So why the hell haven't I done my video? I like to think I lost my faith for the right reasons, and yet, I don't have my video up on YouTube, even though I've been thinking about it for three weeks, even reorganized my MP3 collection to make room for editing on my hard drive?

Man, I suck.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

On God and Television

Public affairs programming is dull; I don't think anyone disputes that, even the most wonkish of C-SPAN junkies. That's how it happens -- not too many people enjoy dealing with administrivia, but it's got to be done. As it happens I've done quite a bit of public affairs programming and it's usually pretty much the same -- the host has in a guest or two to discuss some pressing affair such as homelessness or emergency preparedness. It's dry, but generally important.

Now I'm a militant agnostic, have been for a little over five years (I grew up Catholic but gave up on religion in general as irrelevant to my life). Being as I live on Cape Cod, a good majority of the people I work with at C3TV are religious and devoutly so, and I do in fact do work on one program of a religious nature. As a result, I find myself with an inside perspective on the matter (a perspective that for the most part involves one ear on a single volume slider and both eyes on a good book, but still), and I have to say, the single-talking-head format just doesn't work. No one's gotten it right yet -- not Mother Angelica, not any number of televangelists, no one. It's the most lethally dull form of programming on television. (Note that Pat Robertson at least has someone to bounce his ravings off of in the studio. He knows better.)

The thing that gets me is that there is a lot of great church culture -- music, architecture, literature. But none of it seems to come out of the modern Christian pop culture, which generally seems to have all the fun surgically removed for the purposes of teaching a Biblical lesson (possible exception: VeggieTales, which I've heard is actually pretty good). And let's face it -- no matter how scintillating a preacher may be, there really isn't much to be seen on a program that's all sermon.

On the Whole Product

Is it just me, or has the entertainment industry made a gawdawful hash of the concept of the Whole Product, at least as it applies to home entertainment?

I'd say the VHS format is the most spectacularly successful example of the Whole Product in the entertainment world (with, possibly, the audiocassette). The Whole Product is very important when discussing VHS, because the current conventional wisdom says this is how VHS won the standards war against Betamax. The story is well known -- JVC made VHS a more open and more flexible standard than Sony did with Beta, with longer recording times (especially the EP setting on NTSC gear) and a more open licensing policy beating out a theoretically better picture to create a juggernaut of a standard, one that ruled the roost for over twenty-five years until getting beat out by the DVD.

You will not find a better illustration of the Whole Product concept than the VHS standard. Not only can you record television programs on a VHS VCR with no limitation, you can also use a VHS camcorder to record your own content and play it back on the same VCR. At this point, you also have the option of multiple venues for your work, from the TV in the kitchen all the way up to the local public access station, or even YouTube or Current if you can digitize your footage.

No other format has this kind of flexibility. VHS is the least common denominator for everything. Everything works the same, all the media is interchangeable. Granted, shitty picture, but still. Everyone has it. Everyone knows how to work with it. It's on the way out, but it's still here and not likely to go away completely any time soon. It's democracy on a half-inch tape.

Now, compare the current move to high-definition television.

The entertainment industry has butchered promising new standards to preserve its profits and control many times. DAT died in 2005; MiniDisc will probably follow it this year or next. Both were heavily encumbered by the **AAs' fear of losing revenue to digital copying. DV is another example; while you will never find a better format for standard-definition video acquisition (equipment is cheap and generally produces a high-quality picture), the idea of it becoming the next VHS died on the vine because its creators didn't give the entertainment industry its pound of flesh. No, it's all about DVD these days. DVD is a great idea, mind you, but it has flaws -- copy protection, for example, and the bizarre and often incompatible bestiary that is the recordable DVD market. The Whole Product is rather lacking in all those cases.

But the high-definition world is a whole 'nother level of nuts. Everything is locked down -- I once had a TV have a hissyfit about compromised DRM because I rebooted the cable box. BluRay video has an entire suite of nefarious garbage implemented and ready to go to make life a living hell for anyone who dares use their BluRay movies in a way not approved by the studio. On the production side, the tools are there (although the cameras are rather pricey), but there are no venues for your finished high-def project. That puts us back to living room film festivals like in the old days. Bottom line: they aren't going to give you the whole product, because you might -- might -- use it in a way that they don't approve of or didn't think of, and because every eyeball you have watching your low-budget cooking show is an eyeball that isn't watching their product.

So think about that a moment before you do an upload or turn in a videotape to the scheduling office. Unless you get a break with a big production company, this is as good as it's ever going to get.

Intros are for suckers

Besides, no one is ever going to go this far back in the archives anyway... Eh, what the hell.

I'm Brian. I keep myself busy doing volunteer work at the Cape Cod Community Media Center and I'm hoping to go pro with it Real Soon Now. I used to be more of a computer geek, but not so much anymore. These days it's more video and audio stuff. And I do a lot of cooking.