Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost? No. Misdirected.

Every contemporary conversation between three or more people degenerates into a discussion of Lost. It has been that way for a year or more. In the break room, over dinner, in the elevator, backstage at political rallies, during bank robberies, it always ends up “Do you watch Lost? what do you think is going on? Where are they? Are they alive? Aliens? Here’s my theory… But what I don’t get…” and so on. Eventually the most scholarly person in the bunch will make the inevitable comparison between “Lost” and “Gilligan’s Island”, due not just to obvious plot and character development, but also to encompassing thematic subtexts (both philosophical and comedic).

By now, we all get it. We’ve all had that a-ha moment when we realize that Lost is little more than an episode-by-episode duplication of Gilligan’s Island, with one half-hour’s worth of extra head-scratching weirdness to keep us talking around the water cooler. That kind of insight used to be a revelation but is now just old news, as documented by hard-hitting investigative entertainment journalists here, here, and especially here.

But it goes so much deeper than that, deep into a sinister land of… um… sinisterness.

When was that last time a TV show was so riveting, so unpredictable, and so well-crafted in its episodic development that all polite conversation turned to unraveling its mysteries? You’d have to go back forty years (give or take four days) to find that preceding show and it would, of course, be Gilligan’s Island.

A typical cocktail party conversation forty years ago (give or take four days) would have gone something like this: “Did you see G.I. last night? That is some crazy island. And that Gilligan! What will he do next? Will they ever get off that island? How come they never have babies? It’s been two years, with the gorgeous movie star Ginger and the heartwarming girl-next-door Marianne, and no babies. Is that island like one of those newfangled contraceptive pills, or what?” Then they’d be talking over martinis all night long trying to figure out when Gilligan and friends would get off the island, why the movie star brought so many clothes, where all the other visitors come from and go to, and so on.

What those mid-60’s cocktail partiers WOULDN’T be talking about would be THE WAR.

The US war in Vietnam had been going on for years when, earlier in 1964, a half-fabricated attack in the Gulf of Tonkin led to a resolution abused by the Johnson administration as an excuse for rapid escalation of the war against Vietnam. Anti-war protests were just beginning, and closer public scrutiny of these events would only lead to an increase in protests. Johnson needed to end more protests before they began. He needed the people to have something else to talk about, something so compellingly interesting that they WOULDN’T be talking about THE WAR. So he signed a secret executive order to create Gilligan’s Island, assigning his top speech writers to the task, and even penning a few of the initial episodes himself (all of which is well-documented here). Johnson needed 108 episodes (108!), just enough to last through his presidency.

Flash forward to forty years later when president Bush needed people to talk about something other than THE WAR. So he turned to the last time a Texan was president and was in a similar keep-people’s-minds-off-the-war predicament. Bush, by secret executive copycat order, ordered a remake of every episode of Gilligan’s Island, called it “Lost”, and filled in enough mumbo-jumbo from his Yale Skull & Bones college ceremonies to make each episode last for one hour.

So that’s what’s going on people! We’re being tricked by our president, again. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I.E. It’s a rerun!

Need more proof that Lost is just a Bush trick so we WON’T be talking about THE WAR? How about this: Misdirecting the public via a TV show about castaways is a stupid idea—proven to be stupid because it already failed one president. Stupid ideas are a hallmark of the Bush presidency. This idea is so very completely and utterly stupid that it all but bears the fingerprint of our current president. There’s your smoking gun. Ipso Facto. Proof Complete.

So, let’s all stop talking about Lost now, OK. Let’s talk about what’s really important. LET’S TALK ABOUT THE WAR!
    (But before we talk about THE WAR—I promise, we can get back to THE WAR in a minute—could someone please explain last night’s episode to me. It was a flash-forward, right? What a shocker! But didn’t Jack say his father was in the hospital? Which would mean that his father was alive, right? But Jack’s father was dead on the flight. And whose funeral was it that no one attended? Was Jack trying to kill himself, or was jumping off the bridge going to bring him back to the island? Is everyone turning on Ben? Where’d Walt come from? Locke? WTF?)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

WWJD (in Cincinnati)

I love Jesus soooooo much. I have a huge man-crush on him. I love Jesus mostly for these reasons:
  • He suffered for our sins, so that we may have eternal salvation in the presence of God.
  • I like that he can be my personal savior, but also your personal savior. It’s nice to share.
  • He made it seem cool to dress and talk like a hippy.
And he did these things 2000 years ago (way before it was trendy).

Recently I was greatly dismayed to learn from this blog that my good and honorable friend Ryan Perry is an atheist, having been led astray by Richard Dawkins (and Satan).

It hurts me to think that Jesus suffered for those two atheists. What a terrible waste. I hate to think of my beloved Jesus in so much extra pain (Jesus would never take the easy out by calling out his safe word from the cross).

    Did I mention that I love Jesus soooooo much? I love Jesus so much that I hope Dan Brown’s next novel proves, with his inimitable style of irrefutable and impeccably-researched evidence, that the Church has been suppressing the information that Jesus was actually a woman. Then I can love Jesus in a way that is not such an abomination in the eyes of our Lord.
So I’m thinking, What Would Jesus Do?: If someone he loved were suffering for another’s sins, What Would Jesus Do? Jesus would take that suffering on himself. So that’s what I want to do. I want to remove Jesus’ suffering for Ryan and Richard, and transfer that suffering onto myself.

Let us pray:

    Dear God, I am grateful that you sent your favorite son Jesus to suffer for my sins, but please don’t make Jesus waste his suffering for the sins of Ryan Perry and Richard Dawkins. Please take that burden from Jesus and lay it instead on me. God, this suffering already happened 2000 years ago, I understand, but you are all-powerful and so I know that if you really put your mind to it you can figure out a way to retroactively remove Jesus’ suffering for those two atheists and pass it forward to me (perhaps you can slingshot it around the sun through time, like in Star Trek IV). Thank you, God. Keep up the good work. Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

FCE4AAA: Financial Code of Ethics For Adolescents of All Ages

    When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, and I hacked as a child. I also stole stuff. This week I rediscovered that inner child.
Digg pisses off “the old me”

Last week Digg had a brouhaha over the “censorship” of a certain 16-byte number. At that time I felt that Digg should not have caved in and allowed the number to be published on its site. At that time I felt that Digg users were a bunch of whining adolescents, without one creative bone in their collective body. Had I written this blog at that time it would have gone something like this:

    You sniveling adolescents. Leave that 16-byte number alone. That number was created by someone else, and it’s sufficiently long that they have every right to decide how it be used, shared, or not-shared. If you don’t like it then go out and make a long number of your own, then copyright it, sell it, give it away, whatever you want to do with it. Or is that too hard for you, Digg-child? Can’t create a number of your own so you have to copy one? How pathetic. Can’t create web content of your own (because you have no original thoughts, do you?) so you have to go around clicking on “digg this” icons, and pretend that that makes you part of a “community”? You think that a bunch of snot-nosed kids clicking on icons makes “user-powered content”. Give me a break! You’re not cool.

    Fine, you need a number to copy? Here’s one. I hereby copyright this number and declare that anyone is free to copy it as much as they wish.

    41 6E 79 74 68 69 6E 67 20 73 75 66 66 69 63 69 65
    6E 74 6C 79 20 76 61 67 75 65 20 73 68 61 6C 6C 20
    61 6C 77 61 79 73 20 72 69 6E 67 20 74 72 75 65 2E

    Now get a job!
But that was last week. I’ve since had a major change of mind--a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment. Now I’ve seen the light.

How I got to be “the old me”

Until a few days ago I was a staunch advocate of “content creator’s rights”, which is the idea that whoever originates intellectual property has the right to determine how that IP is used. I used to get totally pissed at people who “shared” music without paying, “shared” software without paying, “shared” movies and source code and so on. Until a few days ago I used to say stuff like, “those artists and engineers and musicians and key grips and so on have worked hard, and taking their stuff without paying is like stealing”. Until a few days ago I would tell people “if you want music to be free then go spend years and years learning to play an instrument, write original songs, compose, arrange, control the soundboard, and when you have your original piece of art you have every right to release it just as free as you want”. I had a similar story regarding software, and movies. That old “censorial” me did things like write a secret software program that would seek out all the songs my son downloaded on Napster and add random noise and pops to the files. That old me enjoyed the fact that his Napster would then pass those now-ruined songs to other P2P “sharers”. The old me wanted RMS to mind his own beeswax and stop telling me how I ought to control my intellectual property.

I wasn’t always this way. When I was an adolescent I had a large collection of cassette tapes recorded from my friends’ albums. I joined the Columbia Record Club twice just for the free ten albums, only to record the albums and return them for a full refund. As an adolescent, I was once in K-Mart with a friend who slipped the latest ELO album into her coat and left without paying. I felt a tad bit guilty over being an accomplice in that theft, but those feelings of guilt did not prevent me from making a cassette recording of that album. It was easy to justify: Jeff Lynne didn’t need my money and, anyway, where did he get off making a double album when there was only a single album’s worth of good music in there. When I was an adolescent I broke through the copy protection schemes on dozens of computer games, and let some middle-aged guy take those protection-free games and distribute them. It was such an interesting challenge that I didn’t think twice that I may be depriving some programmers of their daily bread.

So where did my “anti-freedom” ideas come from? When did I stop being such an adolescent? Part of it may have been a backlash to my experience from when I used to write the CEnvi shareware program. I don’t know how many times I would run across CEnvi users who would tell me how much they loved the program and used it all the time, only to learn they’d never actually paid for it. When the 2600 group posted a code to register my software without paying for it, it annoyed the hell out of me because it meant my kids had no shoes to wear and I had to take the family to the local dive-in for dinner (where “dive-in” was our cute family euphemism for “dumpster diving for dinner because dad has no money for food because people are copying his shareware without paying”)

That A-ha moment that leads to “the new me”

Somewhere along the way I grew up. And that’s sad. I didn’t realize how sad until very recently when my wife, Amy, somehow got stuck with a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. Nobody would take this $20. Nobody! There she was with an almost-perfectly good looking $20 and she couldn’t buy coffee, or shoes, or candy. Nothing.

I suddenly realized: That’s just wrong. If somebody can copy something, they have every right to use it. Right? Why should the US Government have some sort of “trademark” on who can make currency and who cannot?!! That is TOTALLY unfair. It’s a violation of our freedom of speech. It’s just wrong. I want to spend that $20 dammit!


Call to action

Let us not put up with this tyranny any longer. I call on all Digg users, here and now. Stand up for our rights and let’s put an end to this censorship of the currency of ideas, and the currency of currency.

All Digg users, do the following right away (don’t think, just do it):
  1. Gather together any $20s you can find (you're probably unemployed, so digg around in your mother's purse).
  2. Scan those $20s (front and back).
  3. Post those scans on Digg and on any other site you can find.
  4. “digg” all links to posted images of $20s
  5. Post more scans (as many serial numbers as we can get because you can’t “own” a number, right?)
If we all work together in cooperation (“community”) we can flood Digg with $20 scans, links to scans, and links to links, until they cave in to our demands. Then send all those scans to your printers as a record of this historic moment on the road to freedom.

We will not be censored!