Insert motto here

January 5, 2002

More evil from the music industry

The problem, from a digital-rights-management perspective, with CDs is that they contain straight, unencrypted data with no real ability to extend the format without losing backward compatibility. Well, apparently that’s not as much of a concern anymore, as the industry is rolling out “copy-protected” CDs that are “unplayable on Macintosh computers, DVD players and game consoles, such as Sony’s PlayStation 2. [They] might not even play in some CD players.”

Look what we’ve done, folks. We’ve scared the industry to the point where it’s deliberately making CDs that can’t play on all players. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that CD prices are falling to the US$10 range—which, MWJ points out, is “the same prices they promised in 1983 as soon as enough people had CD players to make ‘critical mass,’ as we recall”. (Gotta love news sources with long memories.)

As I’ve said before, I support the idea that artists should be compensated for their work. Distributing their work without their permission or any compensation is clearly a Bad Thing in the long run. But the music industry insists on strategies that make people more likely to turn to free on-line sources.

(I put quotes around “copy-protected” because, of course, nothing can be done to prevent people from capturing the sound output from the CD player and recording that. It wouldn’t even be that difficult, these days.) #

And you are…?

Wesley Felter notes the founding of the Digital Identity Weblog, which will apparently focus on the various competing standards for identifying yourself on-line.

As you know, the efforts for a digital identity standard are intended to consolidate the name and address forms found at so many sites these days. Instead of having to fill out the forms every time (or, worse, have a username and password for each site), you would give the site some sort of identifier, and it would use it to look up your information.

Sounds simple enough, but it doesn’t give anyone the chance to dominate a market and make a fortune, so instead we get years of development on standards with little public comment and a good chance that no one will end up caring anyway.

Ah, progress. #

Charts and geekiness

The Brunching Shuttlecocks posted a chart of the geek hierarchy, helping “normal” people understand how literary science fiction fans relate to, say, people fluent in Klingon. (found at Blogdex, which means I’m far from alone in mentioning it)

If charts about geeks aren’t your style, how about a chart for geeks? Like, say, one detailing the genealogy of modern Unix variants. Quite frankly, it’s awe-inspiring. (Remember A/UX?) #

Weblogs and Journalism

Elsewhere, Tom Matrullo looks at “Doc’s Paradox”—asking why Mr Searls’s weblog is seemingly more popular than the actual articles of more serious, paid journalists. He notes the difficulties journalists have dealing with abstracts like objectivity, facts, opinions, and the Truth.

Perhaps, he suggests, it is because Mr Searls’s humorous style in his weblog “suggests an element of humility largely missing in most professional journalism”. I can’t really do justice to his essay here in summary format, but thankfully I can just point to it. (via Doc Searls) #

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings: The Movie: The Review by Dave Menendez

The Self-Made Critic has posted his Lord of the Rings review, so I might as well put down my own thoughts.

Before I go any further, though, I have to demonstrate my obsessiveness: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is commonly described as a trilogy, but this is a misconception. It is actually a single novel, divided into six parts (plus appendices). It was originally published in three volumes, each containing two parts, but it is not a trilogy in the sense that the first two volumes do not reach any sort of conclusion; their endings are more like chapter breaks.

Most of the reviews I’ve seen so far have praised the movie for its faithfulness to the book, and they’re probably right. In fact, a surprising amount of the dialogue is lifted directly from the book. There are a few major omissions—understandable, given the desire for a reasonable running time—and some additions of varying quality.

It looks great. Even some of the places I’ve never been able to successfully visualize looked good here, like the pits of Isengard. The visual tricks used to make the Hobbits look smaller than the human characters were seamless, as far as I could tell. The props looked like actual artifacts. The exterior shots managed to give the impression of ancient kingdoms long forgotten by the time the movie starts.

Some changes were understandable, like the expansion of Arwen’s role or the extreme time compression between Bilbo’s party and Frodo’s departure from the Shire (about seventeen years in the book; possibly a few months in the movie). The desire to keep the tension up is reasonable, and for all his strengths Tolkien didn’t manage to put a lot of female characters in the book, strong or otherwise (I can think of five, not counting Shelob; even Lúthien got more time than some of them, and she’d been dead for thousands of years before the story began).

Other changes merely seemed odd. Why weren’t there any other Hobbits at Bree? In the book, Bree is noted for its unique mixture of the Big and Little Folk. In the movie, it’s populated solely by scary-looking humans. Why was Bilbo excluded from the Council of Elrond? Granted, the moved most of his exposition to a prologue, but he could had been there anyway. Why did Gimli think Balin still ruled in Moria? In the book, he had traveled to Rivendell because the dwarves had lost all contact with Balin. In the movie, Gandalf’s concerns about Moria don’t have any apparent cause. It seems to me that any of these could have been left unchanged without making the movie any more difficult to make or harder to appreciate.

More understandable, but equally disappointing, is the more active role taken by Saruman. Apparently, avalanches and treacherous mountain passes are unacceptable unless a wizard’s influence is involved. (On the other hand, they got the pronunciation of “Caradhras” right, so mad props for that.)

The single most annoying thing, for me, was the scene at Galadriel’s mirror. Here they managed to directly quote the dialogue in the book, put they overplayed the drama to such an extent that it was laughable. Yes, Galadriel is tempted by the ring, but she’s over sixty centuries old. She does not lose her cool and start shouting at Frodo, and she certainly doesn’t dissolve into green flame or whatever the hell was going on in that scene. Yeah, the ring works its evil mojo on everyone around, but the point is that it’s subtle. Evil rings do not advertise.

Still, it was good. I’ll see it again, probably. And there’s always the books for people who want the real thing. #