Category Archives: Entertainment

Fixer Upper

OK, so Frozen is a kids’ movie – but it’s not like the messages in such things don’t have an effect that’s important to critique. And if Andrew Bolt can be published in the Herald Sun ranting about The Incredibles or Godzilla, I can damn well write something on a blog about a track I accidentally got stuck in my head.

So, while I sit here recovering from hospital with a cat perched on my shoulders (seriously, Polly, wtf), I’d just like to object to the song “Fixer Upper”.

The trolls meet Anna, and after being told she and Kristoff aren’t together, start interrogating her.

What’s the issue, dear?
Why are you holding back from such a man?

Because of course a woman must be interested in a man by default, and if she isn’t, well it’s something that needs to be “fixed”. Seriously?

But you’ll never meet a fellow who’s as
Sensitive and sweet!
So he’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
So he’s got a few flaws…

And they then proceed to try to argue her into being interested in him, with a list of silly quirks that aren’t so bad.

oh he’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
but this we’re certain of
You can fix this fixer-upper
Up with a little bit of love!

WHY IS THAT HER JOB?!
Continue reading

Elysium: if Tony Abbott was Jodie Foster and Australia was a satellite filled with the cartoonishly selfish

SPOILERS

So in Elysium, the poor and desperate of Earth trying to seek refuge on Elysium, the orbiting habitat where the fortunate live, are shot down or deported as “illegals” by the ruthless comfortable few.

An interesting allegory of anti-refugee rhetoric in our world today?

Well, it could have been, if the people on Elysium weren’t cartoonishly evil, if the world below made sense, and if the plot wasn’t ridiculous.

  • Who governs on Earth? Elysium seems to have its own embassies, implying it’s a different regime – so why do the people on Earth and their rulers put up with being ground into the dirt by the people on Elysium?
  • Why isn’t anyone on Earth using those magical medibays? Surely on a massively overpopulated planet someone would have found a way to pinch that unbelievably important tech and put it in Earth hospitals.
  • And apart from being evil, why aren’t the people on Elysium willing to share the medibay tech? Apparently they have a whole bunch of them sitting in med-shuttles ready to fly down to Earth at a moment’s notice – they just refuse to. Because evil?
  • If you’re going to shoot down refugee vessels on their way to Elysium, wouldn’t you do it from Elysium rather than getting someone on Earth to fire missiles in the direction of Elysium?
  • Why can the Elysium security chief simply declare that a crashed shuttle is “an Act of War” (by whom?) and seize power just on her own say-so? If she had that power, why the need for the rest of her elaborate scheme?
  • Why did Elysium have a magical “reboot” code that was in the hands of some random contractor? And when it was executed, why didn’t the powers that be on Elysium simply reset it? Why couldn’t they arrest “Spider” just because he was now deemed a “citizen” – was there absolute anarchy up there where citizens could commit any crime and not be arrested for it?
  • Where are all the other space stations? What, they built Elysium on their first go, right after the ISS?
  • If they can make droids that are basically terminators, that can fight melee with humans and manage all the complex calculations to do that – why are they still bothering with humans in factories? Wouldn’t their robots build whatever they need faster and cheaper?

And stop ending sci-fi films with fist-fights between the hero and the villain. IT’S SO VERY, VERY BORING.

Riders on the Rainbow

These major key transpositions of famous songsLosing My Religion, Nothing Else Matters, Riders on the Storm and Minor Swing – by “Major Scaled TV” are both technologically brilliant (not just covers, that actually is Jim Morrison’s voice singing in a major key) but also shift the way you think about the music.

Incredible work.

Publishers, Retailers, Consumers: 1-1-0. How about 1-1-2, instead?

There are three main players in the videogame market: publishers, retailers, and consumers.

And the last five years have demonstrated fairly clearly how the market arranges itself to screw consumers, to the ultimate detriment of all.

Let me explain, with reference to the last two big fights between the publishers and retailers: second-hand games, and online publishing.

Each is in the interests of one, at the expense of the other.

Retailers found that they were quite good at running a marketplace for used games, where consumers could trade in their old games just in the very physical location where they were likely to spend that money on a new game. Retailers took a cut (and at the margin between what they were paying customers for the used games and the price they were reselling them, a very substantial cut) on each exchange. The publishers became increasingly antsy at all this economic activity from which they weren’t directly profiting (although they were, indirectly, by consumers having more money with which to buy new games and by consumers feeling that the almost hundred bucks they were about to spend on a new game wasn’t going to be completely lost).

So the publishers started crippling games so that critical features were available to the first purchaser – and only that one purchaser, no longer could a couple purchase a game together and each play the whole thing. Second-hand purchasers found themselves unable to play significant parts of the games they’d just bought.

The publishers thereby seriously slashed back a revenue stream for retailers.

In return, when it came to online sales of games, the retailers – now with one revenue stream curtailed – put their foots down. You must not undercut us with digital sales, they demanded, even though without a physical copy of the game the production and distribution costs are significantly lower and consumers know that they are paying full price for a product that costs you less and requires that they pay the distribution costs themselves (by way of bandwidth) and forsake their right to resell it.

And so the publishers charged full price, even on games that were discounted physically in stores. Digital copies of games often cost more than the physical counterparts, even though this makes no sense whatsoever.

In regions where the retailers overcharged customers substantially, like in Australia, where a 50USD game retails at EB Games for $110 Australian (ie, more than double, particularly when the Australian dollar is actually worth more than the US one), the online retailers were required by the publishers to similarly overcharge. So on Steam, which actually charges Australians in USD anyway, new games will be 50USD for Americans, and 90USD (or worse) for Australians.

The number of sales lost to consumers who simply refused to buy games at that markup apparently didn’t occur to the publishers. Nor did it occur to them that they should be doing everything they can to encourage consumers online, where they can have a higher margin even with a lower price, boosting sales and revenue at the same time.

So – two fights, and each side won one and gave ground on the other. Only they both took the sides that screwed consumers. One each for the publishers and retailers; nil on both for consumers.

Instead of the retailers selling second-hand games uncrippled, and the publishers selling online games at a reasonable price, thereby encouraging consumers to buy, they chose the options which reduced sales. They each carved out ground from the other – but the wrong ground if they want consumers parting with their hard-earned.

They forget – videogames are a discretionary entertainment expenditure. Consumers have plenty of choices for their entertainment dollar, both within and without the field of videogames. Nobody likes feeling cheated or ripped off, and in industries where consumers simply can easily go elsewhere, it’s surely not a good idea to leave them with that feeling.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that so many publishers (eg THQ) and retailers (eg GAME) have struggled or gone out of business this year.

Maybe they should consider renegotiating their faustian pact. Maybe the retailers should say – okay, we’ll agree to you selling games online at an appropriate discount from physical retail, if you’ll agree to stop crippling second hand games. You can increase revenue from online distribution, and we’ll increase revenue from what we’re good at, facilitating a physical marketplace for these products between consumers. We both give and gain ground – and the consumers win and will be willing to buy more of our products. And the retailers the same in reverse.

And that’s what would happen.

If the market actually worked.

Of course you can’t make Lord of the Rings movies without decimating citizens’ rights!

I was considering purchasing the blu-rays of the Lord of the Rings movies. But seeing the nasty anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-citizen laws Warner Brothers managed to bully out of New Zealand to make the new ones there… not so keen any more.

How much taxpayer money can Warner Bros. demand from the government of New Zealand to keep production there (rather than, say, in Australia or the Czech Republic)? That answer turns out to be about $120 million, plus the revision of New Zealand’s labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors, plus the passage of three-strikes Internet-disconnection laws for online copyright infringement, plus enthusiastic and, it turns out, illegal cooperation in the shutdown of the pirate-friendly digital storage site Megaupload and the arrest of its owner, Kim Dotcom.

For keeping Warner Bros. happy, Prime Minister John Key, a former Merrill Lynch currency trader, got a replica magic Hobbit sword from U.S. President Barack Obama and a chance to hang New Zealand’s fortunes on becoming the tourist destination for Middle Earth enthusiasts. What could go wrong?

Would Peter Jackson really have abandoned NZ to make the films elsewhere if the NZ government hadn’t agreed to screw over their own citizens? I want to see him being asked that as he flies around the world being gently massaged by entertainment “journalists”.

An industry that deserves to lose money

A bluray compilation we bought recently claimed that it came with a digital copy that you could play on an iphone or a computer or whatever. You’ve paid for the movie, you should be able to play it in whatever format you like.

This is the process the movie company thinks is going to compete with people just downloading a video file that works straight away.

In the package is a data DVD with a low-res version of the movie you bought on bluray (thus immediately being completely pointless to play from your computer onto a big screen, since it’s vastly lower quality than the bluray you’ve bought.)

To get it onto the computer (and then a portable device), you have to:

  1. Insert the DVD copy disk.
  2. Enter a string of letters and numbers that’s obviously a single-use code (and you have to do this a short time after buying the bluray – the codes actually expire).
  3. Let iTunes add it to your hard disk somewhere within the iTunes labyrinthine file system – but despite you having entered a code, iTunes doesn’t record that you own it, so you can’t just download a copy straight to any of your devices connected to iTunes.
  4. And then you can transfer your low-quality version to high-def devices.

Why can’t you just transfer the movie from the bluray with the high-def copy? Why doesn’t the single-use code actually enable you to redownload the movie from the system that’s “authorised” it?

It’s the same reason why if you put one of their discs in your player you have to sit through unskippable anti-piracy threats and lies.

Because these people don’t give a damn about their customers. They don’t think you own squat. You’ve paid them, but it’s still theirs, and they will only begrudgingly let you access it at all. Let alone in a manner convenient to you.

If governments weren’t busy covering these companies’ backsides by passing ever more ludicrous copyright legislation, they’d have long since disappeared.

UPDATE: The official DVD packaging for Sony’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actually looks like a pirated copy:

One of the commenters suggests:

They want it to resemble a DRM-free no-previews no-ads copy -to be more attractive to the customer.

Songs to wallow to

I’ve recently noticed a somewhat disturbing running theme in some of my favourite songs:

They’re not exactly uplifting subjects, are they? It’s a good thing I don’t rely on music to cheer me up.

Shut your damn pie hole, Worf

So you thought you might like to go to the show

Yesterday morning I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see Roger Waters doing The Wall so much that I was prepared to deal with those obnoxious parasites at Ticketek and pay a hundred bucks to be hidden in a remote corner off to the side of Rod Laver arena in a huge noisy crowd trying to identify a tiny figure on stage trying to hit the notes he could reach in his youth, thirty years before.

Fortunately, in the end I listened to my wife and just did it. And my god it was awesome.


Love how at concerts now instead of holding up cigarette lighters, people hold up iPhones recording videos. Similar effect, just a slightly different colour

When Waters got to the end of Comfortably Numb, the crowd absolutely lost its shit.

Other interesting moments: audio from Collateral Murder playing over part of, I think it was, Run Like Hell; and a slightly awkward look in the Australian audience when fascist Pink starts talking about “sending our coloured brothers home again”. The WW2 plane crashing into the stage. And the eponymous Wall gradually being built and then exploded at the end.

Not sure about the local pandering at the end where Waters and the band sang Waltzing Matilda – complete with the Australian audience doing fascist fist bumps for “down came the troopers, ONE! TWO! THREE!” – but I suppose it was nice that he tried, that he wasn’t some aloof angry old rock star resenting touring, resenting playing the same songs thirty years later. He seemed to really thrive on the audience’s utter love of the material.

It was awesome. I recommend you snap up a ticket and go tonight, if you can.

Discussing the Sherlock that we’re not allowed to watch

The BBC modern-day Sherlock adaption has started its second series in the UK. Of course, under the absurd international copyright regime (to which the local Labor and Liberal parties give unflinching support) run for the benefit of companies that get a kick out of arbitrarily blocking whole continents from experiencing their employees’ artistic works, the only apparently lawful way for people in Australia to be aware of the content of these episodes is to have someone in the UK describe it to them over the phone.

Fortunately, I have cousins in London. They’ve been able to tell me ALL about it.

Which is why I’m aware of the issues that prompted Sarah Brennan to draw this cartoon (sorry if this is a spoiler, but that’s an unfortunate side-effect of accessing the internet whilst waiting patiently to lawfully watch a program broadcast overseas long before you’re allowed to see it):

From what I’ve been told by my cousin, who gave me pretty much a blow-by-blow account so good that it’s almost as if I’d seen the episode myself, the second isn’t an unreasonable criticism of the way Stephen Moffat covered that issue. Instead of the woman with respect to whom Sherlock develops an almost romantic attachment but who is indifferent to him, outsmarts him and then leaves to marry a completely different person, Moffat made Irene Adler a “lesbian” (she uses the word to describe herself, I think) who then falls in love with Sherlock (which is her downfall) and then has to be rescued by him at the end. It was a bit of a waste of a satisfyingly unconventional character in the original books.

But I don’t agree with the first complaint. If they simply transplanted Sherlock’s original arrangement with Watson to the present-day, it would infer things it never inferred in the original. There was never anything to suggest Sherlock had a sexual interest in anyone whatsoever – quite the contrary, and with his reasons clearly explained. And Watson was married to a different character and whilst portrayed as slightly obsessed with Sherlock as a friend, there was never any indication it was sexual. So no, it’s not invalid for Moffat to clarify that his two-blokes-sharing-a-flat-in-2011 doesn’t mean what otherwise it would be taken to mean.

Anyway, I hear the new episodes are – issues above notwithstanding – very good. The first lot, which we bought on bluray as soon as they were available, certainly were. Highly recommended.

(Commenters reacting to the episode will be assumed to have been in the UK over New Years, or have had friends or family describe the relevant parts to them over the phone or something.)