Friday, July 22, 2005

Will Blogs Replace TV?

One of my favourite blogs, University Diaries, recently pointed out a short article on George Gilder's recent prognostication that TV will die, and be replaced by blogs. While it's a nice idea, sorry, it ain't gonna happen.

Blogs, as a rule, comment on existing things; rarely do they create on their own (though the exceptions, such as Hitherby Dragons are among my favourites). This isn't a criticism; we have a need, in our hyper-aware society, to have commentary to set events, both fictional and real, in a context so that we can understand them for what they are meant to be.

TV, though Lord knows it has some serious problems, does create some wonderful new shows (though I confess sometimes that I'd prefer to watch them on DVD), both fictional and non-. Of course it creates a lot of drek, but Sturgeon's Law applies everywhere.

I digress. The point is, blogs can perhaps replace the Sunday morning pundit shows, and much of the commentary on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, et. al, but they won't replace, say, Picket Fences, or Monk, or Fullmetal Alchemist-- the experiences they create are so totally different in character, I just don't see how it can happen. Frankly, most Americans do not read for pleasure (incredible to believe, I know, but it's true), so why would they all of a sudden start? People want more than the passive, couch-potato-oriented entertainment they've had in the past, but that doesn't mean they're going to run to books or blogs.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

No Room to Hide

I have ranted before about the over-partisanization of politics, but I thought I'd just like to take a short moment to whine about the difficulty of being a moderate in today's political climate. Not the difficulty of making up one's own mind about issues without the benefit of a party to tell me what to think-- no, the problem de jour is conformity. I t hought high school was bad, but man, that's nothing compared to politics.

It seems as if I cannot agree with one position of one party without having all the others imputed to me, regardless of my actual beliefs. "You believe in limited government? Then you must be anti-abortion, you unfeeling conservative SOB!" "You think the war in Iraq has been mismanaged from the start? You must believe in tax-and-spend big government!" It's as if we have collectively lost all ability to separate out various positions, and can only relate to politics in terms of "Republican" or "Democrat".

Not that I'm a fan of Balkanization of political parties either, though I do think a few healthy third parties (or fourth, or fifth or... you get the idea) would do us good. The situation we have in the US is not perfect, but neither are parliamentary systems such as Canada's, where a minority party can form a government after building a large enough coalition with other parties. The main difference is that in the US, we build our coalitions before the elections; in parliamentary systems, they build them afterwards. I fear that too many parties, on the other hand, would lead us into an increasingly fragmented society. Perhaps that was the framers' intent, when they defined powerful states and a relatively weak federal government, but it's not what we've lived with these past 6 or 7 decades, and I think the dissolution of our national identity is a shame.

I don't have a solution; all I can offer are platitudes such as, "Have lunch at least once a week with someone you disagree with politically" (which I highly recommend; it's easy to forget your opponents are human). I beg you, at least try to honestly consider the concept that the other side has real and valid reasons for what they believe; they're not just rapacious corporate barons/elitist intellectual Marxists.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Here, Sir, Please Have Another

Tycho's recent rant on the topic of subscription software has a lot to do with why I haven't gone for MMORPGs. The fact that, when you get right down to it, they're really fancy GUI MUDs is another, but I digress. I like the social aspect of them. I like the fact that that social aspect is not geographically-limited. I even like the properties they represent-- I'm a shameless whore for anything with the words "Final Fantasy" or "Dungeons and Dragons" on the box. I just can't get over the idea, foolish and outdated though it seems these days, that when I buy a game, that means that I can play the game whenever I want, without having to cough up even *more* money.

This isn't just gaming's fault-- Anti-Virus software, as he noted, is just as evil, and large enterprise customers have been renting their software for decades now. What worries me, though, is the DRM built into new computers and consoles that comes right out and says to my face that once I've bought a title, all that means is that I have entered a brave new world of financial torment.

Now, I'm mostly not worried right now-- I don't run Windows at home, and most of my gaming these days is console-based, by which I mean I own a PS2 and a Gamecube, neither of which have any significant chunk of online gaming. I worry, though, that with the PS3 and Xbox 360 (and somebody should REALLY point out to Microsoft that 360 degrees takes you right back where you started, which is maybe not the IDEAL sort of association you want for a brand-spanking new console) the default assumption will be that a disc is just the install process for a virtual vacuum hose extending into your wallet.

I dunno-- maybe it's possible that consumers will revolt against software rental as a generic way of life. Perhaps MMORPGs are inherently the sort of games that lend themselves to a subscription
model. After all, while Halo is nicer with Live, you can still have plenty of fun with it completely disconnected from everything. If it's a matter of, "Here's your game, have fun with it, oh and by the way, you can give us $$$ and we will let you have even MORE fun", then
I'm all for it. And hey, maybe consumers will revolt-- after all, DivX (the pseudo-DVD format, not the codec) failed because consumers didn't like the idea of buying something that they didn't really own.

No matter what happens, I have my Legend of Zelda disc, and nobody can take that away from me. Now all I need is Super Mario Brothers for the GC, and I'm set.