Aside: I think it’s fucking great that the New Times is sharing local music on its blog. But it is fucking LAME that they choose a dodgy format that tells me I need to “download additional plugins” instead of just clicking to play or download like every respectable website on the internet. THIS IS WHY PRINT JOURNALISM IS DYING YOU ASSHOLES. Update: Just to be clear, I’m pissed at Village Voice Media for — apparently — not having a standard way for their bloggers to share mp3’s, not at Arielle for making a poor choice. Here is the file, for anyone interested.

NYTimes blog-like display

The New York Times, one of the more tech/internet-savvy newspapers we have, finally, in 2009, has a reverse-chronological display of its articles. You know, kind of like blogs have had for over ten years. Certain other details of blog publishing (archives by date, archives by topic (clicking on the categories on that page takes you to the “regular” page for that topic, which is broken)) are still lacking. Maybe in another ten years. (via)

How long until you can stream any movie anytime?

Boxee interface Over at Slate, Farhad Manjoo confesses to using BitTorrent, and explains why there’s no on-demand movie service that offers all the movies you can get at Blockbuster. Film studios are locked into contracts that dictate who gets exclusive rights to films after release — movie theaters, video rental chains, premium channels, broadcast channels. That’s why, for example, “Netflix’s Watch Instantly streaming plan offers a smattering of popular new releases and a slightly wider selection of films from the ’80s and ’90s.” In the end, Manjoo says it’ll take about 10 years before we can stream any movie we want legally.

And I’m just not so sure. Manjoo is apparently not afraid that the film studios are going to sue him RIAA style, otherwise he wouldn’t be so open about using BitTorrent to download films. But neither are the studios oblivious to BitTorrent. They’re monitoring the situation, and they know exactly how much money they’re leaving on the table. The record industry and the newspaper industry are just two they’ve recently seen go down the crapper after not dealing with the internet. If these people have two slivers of brain to rub together, they’re working right now to fix the situation.

And there’s evidence that they’re making progress. Hulu is adding new movies for online streaming, some of them as recent as 2008. Of course they’re not blockbusters — it’s a free service, after all. And if some outdated contracts are all that’s in the way, well, one Steve Jobs demonstrated that where there’s a will, contracts can be re-negotiated. And here again, movie studios have a powerful precedents on their side in the negotiations.

Napster shut down in 2001, and the iTunes store opened two years later, in 2003. In other words, it took two years to get music online legally even after it was obvious that suing filesharing sites was not without hope. Contrast this with the recent verdict against ThePirateBay, after which the site continues to operate with relative impunity. How long until a streaming service that has anything out on DVD opens? I’d say a lot less than 10 years.

24 and The Ramones

Misael and I sometimes debate the relative artistic merits of film vs. television. Lots of different analogies are possible in these discussions (e.g. film as short story, television (think The Wire, etc.) as novel), none perfect. In the end though, I think this exercise is a little like arguing the relative merits of dance and architecture; each is a distinct artform that deserves to be judged on its own merits.

Or maybe it makes more sense to say that each is a family of different artforms. Shows like Murder She Wrote have very little to do with shows like Lost, and few things are as open-ended as a feature film (I note Gummo without further comment). Nonetheless the argument that film is inherently an inferior artform (because (1) a television series is not conceived as a single artistic statement, as every film is, and (2) however deconstructed and contemporary, every episode of every television show must be stand-alone satisfying to a certain degree) has obvious appeal, on its face. And “sometimes you’re in the mood for bubble gum” is sort of like damning TV with faint praise.

But so I’ve been watching 24 lately (I’m on season 3). Structurally, the show is fascinating: each season is 24 episodes, each of which is part of one intense 24 hour period in the life of the California anti-terrorism unit. The show runs in real-time, while juggling numerous interconnected story lines. The politics of the show are sometimes questionable, but the achievement of crafting the stories is staggering.

Yet what’s most impressive about 24 is something else. The Ramones claimed that their idea was to take the peak moment of pop music — the most energetic dizzying crescent — and create music that was about extending that moment for an entire song. Somewhat analogously, 24 takes the most intense moments of spy movies (Bond), and attempts to stretch them into an entire season. The idea is that the tension does not let up — indeed, does not even ease — for the entire 24-hour season (this is best experienced, as much modern TV is, by watching the entire season on DVD over a short period of time (in fact, a season of 24 could arguably be best experienced in an actual 24 hour period, watching time synchronized to the fictional time)). This is odd, since even a Bond movie has peaceful and romantic interludes between sequences of action. Here are 24 hours of unrelenting tension.

I’m not making a case for 24. I’m making the case that despite the illusion that film is a more free-form artform, in reality television has the ability to do certain things that cannot be done in any other way.


The world internet is abuzz with talk about this weeks’ Time cover story advocating micropayments for online content. Rex Sorgatz even put together a really smart model of how they might work.

The problem, for those not following along, is that newspapers and some magazines are dying, loosing revenue from their print editions (because they didn’t play nice with the internet early on), and they think this (i.e. not playing nice with the internet now) is going to be their salvation.

It’s not going to work, and Clay Shirky has done a great job of explaining why (via). Essentially, because people pony up on micropayments only when they have no other alternative. The only way for this to succeed is for the New York Times (or whoever) to convince all similar content providers to implement a micropayment system system at the same time.

For those following along at home, I’ve made two of my own proposals for saving the newspaper industry over the years: the non-profit model, and the break it up and rebuild it model (see comment #2).