Monday, November 12, 2012

A few thoughts on Skyfall.

When I saw Casino Royale, I saw a Bond that was intelligent, charming, and flawed. I saw a Bond that even though he was a sexist asshole, you couldn't help but feel like there was a real, good person inside, and that it was the breaks within him that made him what he was. He was turning his weaknesses into strengths. The female characters were strong, Moneypenny was independent and flawed in her own way, it was an amazing film, and a great break from the traditional pure sexist, pure fantasy world of Bond. It was the difference between POW! ZAP! Batman with Adam west and The Dark Knight.

Quantum of Solace was a two hour long chase scene that included some sex scenes, but crucially not with the flawed and damaged main Bond girl. I saw this as Bond respecting a damaged woman, and giving her the respectful physical space that he knew she needed.

Skyfall turned back the clock and set us in 1950. It was there with everything: the cars, M, the jokes about Bond being old even though this particular incarnation of Bond hasn't been doing the job for that long, and lastly and most sadly, the sexism.

I thought we were moving in a direction where women were taken with Bond, not where Bond took women. When I saw a black woman shaving Bond because "that's the old fashioned way, and it's best" I didn't feel sexual tension, I felt a reference to slavery. Then I saw a sex slave get walked in on in the shower and get fucked.


Seriously. I would've been fine with M being a man again if none of this other stuff had happened, but put all together its just wrong, and the wrong direction for Bond to go. Just because its a longstanding franchise with a rich and storied history doesn't mean we have to keep pretending that it's 1950, and that "Man-talk" has to be the rule of Bond.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A short, Lovecraftian story that I wrote while waiting for NaNoWriMo to start. Tomorrow the work begins on my real Nano, but I couldn't let this one go. Now I am sleepy, and here is some hopefully horror, though I think it's just simply confusing.

My Name

Even in this fever-dream, even when the lights of my life are dim and flickering, the memory of everything that came before skewed and distorted, even when my family and friends are nothing but monstrous caricatures in my mind, the beginning is all so clear.
I was on a boat.
There was a song about that, I think. A funny one.
But this was not a funny boat. This was just a regular boat, a sailboat, I think. Yes, there was definitely a sail. We were sailing to an island, an island that did not show up on radar, and did not appear on satellite photos.
We were supposed to be catching sharks. Not to eat, but to study. Catch, then release. Only keep them for as long as we had to. Just enough to learn something, then we set them free to have their happy shark lives.
Now we are caught.
The island was odd, like something out of a fantasy novel or video game. It was shrouded in mist, visible only barely when the wind was at its peak, and the mists would grow thin and stretched, but never disappear. Even on the island the mist is everywhere, but it never acts like a mist should. Sometimes you think you can see forever, off into a distance so infinite that it cannot yet be on this earth, something that breaks the horizon and damages the mind simply to see. Other times, the mists cling closely, thick as solid stone, blocking us even from ourselves. And yet always you can see the sun shining, though it be discolored, a sort of jaundiced green.
I can see it, and yet its light seems so weak, so cold. It does not feel like my sun, but I know it must be.
It must.
I am rambling, I think. I do not know sometimes if I am writing this or living it. Some things I see are false, visions of things that have not happened, but whether they will or not I do not know. Tenses seem wrong here, as inappropriate as curses in a kindergarten.
I must work to keep them straight.
We left the sailboat offshore, and came ashore in a dingy. The sand of the beach is inky black, and it glistens like obsidian. Past the sand the island turns to stones, then a soft, spongy dirt, from which spring mushrooms taller than any man. The only kinds of vegetation seem to be fungi, or thick, almost meaty moss that clumps atop every stone.
There were thirteen of us, I think. Thirteen that came ashore and five that stayed aboard. We had radios, but we quickly found they didn’t work. Every channel was filled with static, hissing in and out like breaths. GPS showed nothing, and our compasses span. Our smartphones worked in fits and bursts, randomly flashing on and off.
I remember too, the words were never right. You tried to write a note, and the suggested spelling would never be the right word. It was such a little thing, something you thought was strange. They were innocuous at first. Mush suggested not mushroom, but barn; stran suggested not strange but chicken. We laughed a little about it. Nervously, I think. Nobody was very calm. But we were scientists. Still are, I think. I don’t know if that title goes away when you die.
I was a Muslim, too, I think. I believed there was a heaven, and that Allah was real. I believed in good things, like honoring your family and helping those in need. This tense I know is right. I no longer am a Muslim. I know there is no Allah, and that no curses await me for my heretical betrayal.

If there is a hell, I am already there. Or will be. I don’t know if this can get any worse, or if it has.
Am I even writing this?
We found a monument on the island, like Stonehenge. Giant pillars of rock put atop each other, built in a circle on a high mound. Light came from plant-like growths on the rocks, curling nautilus spirals that unfurled into glowing fronds, waving in some unseen wind.
There was a doorway in the center, great stone double doors that stood open from the earth. The outsides were dented, maybe carved. We argued but the fact was the stone was too rough, too weathered to be certain as to whether there was writing.
There’s a stairway in the doors, spiralling down into darkness. The steps are uneven and irregularly sized. Some appear to be not stone or dirt but fossilized bone, but we cannot be sure.
Some of us don’t want to go down there. Sandy yells at us, says we need to get the fuck out of here. That there’s something wrong here, and we should let the military handle it.
Whose military? We are all from different places. We argue, each of us scared shitless but most of us too afraid to admit it. We want to feel strong, in control, even though we know we have completely lost it already.
Some of us leave. The unlucky thirteen turned eight.
I wonder if they made it back. If they got onboard the ship and just sailed away, back home to safety, to tell the military of this place.
I wonder if they will nuke us. I wonder if they have. Sometimes I see it happening, see the bombs falling, but there is something that eats them. A storm, a face, an endless maw.
Allah help them. I know she cannot help me.
The eight of us, went down the stairs. The walls of the well transitioned from dirt to clay to rough stone, then to carved blocks, fit together with incredible proficiency. I think there were stones like this somewhere else, something in South America where conspiracy theorists hired by the History channel talk about how man could never have made such things. The stairwell ends there, with the perfect stones, and branches off into tunnels, each perfectly symmetrical and tapered towards the top, like a rifle bullet. We try to count how many but each of us comes up with a different number. We argue. There is a statue in this foyer, in the center of the spiral stairs. I remember there was a pedestal, and atop it something strange. One of us said it was a flame, someone else a cupped hand, other the head of a squid. Someone speaks to me.
Her name, Natalia, I think. She is from Ukraine. She says we should go back, that she doesn’t like it here.
I agree, but something holds me back. Something that is pulling me forward. Some primate urge to know, to understand.
Someone else agrees, but the rest of us trade eyes. We share the same urge, the same drive. The agreer is a man. Derek, I think. American. The only one of us that does not speak a language besides English. We laughed about it behind his back, in English. The only one all the rest of us shared.
Some joke about Imperialism, the scope of the American ego.
Someone says we should choose a tunnel. To make sure we all chose the same one, we hold hands like schoolchildren and tie fishing line to our belts.  
The places we are from seem so small right now. Our languages so crude and withered, shrunken forest trees dying from drought.

The tunnels bend at impossible angles but remain straight. We discuss the impossibilities as we vomit, our brains and bodies made sick as we attempt to understand. Gravitational lensing, someone says. Dimensional rifts. Someone says drugs. Me, I think. I hope it’s just drugs.
I know it’s not drugs.
We walk the corridor for the briefest of eternities, crossing countless branches, hopefully staying straight. Someone is leaving a spraypaint trail, but it never seems to stay. The hallway bends straight and it is gone.
Somehow we find a room. It is vast and egg-shaped, with stepped platforms building up from the bottom. There is a machine in the room, silver and phallic, a bulbous telescope floating in the open air. Mushrooms caps the size of hands grow from the bottom of the machine, each a different, sometimes impossible shade. A color that is not black, but you cannot see, almost so it is invisible, just a hint in the corner of your eye. But you can feel them all with your hands, you know they are real.
One of us, a man. Zhang, thinks the mushrooms caps are control. He grasps them in his hands and tries to twist and turn them. There is a moment, a blink, and he is gone. We scream and shout and curse. Then we see the fishing line, still between us, connected as though he was never there. Then we don’t shout, we don’t scream. One person curses. Another cries. Somebody says something about folding space, stuttering over her words.
Five of us now.
We tried to go back through that hallway. Sometimes we would see the spraypaint, sometimes we wouldn’t. We walked and walked, but the hallway never seemed the same.
Then it wasn’t the same. Instead of perfect blocks everywhere there was a recession, a little alcove.
No, not an alcove, a depressed window. A bubble projecting off the wall, translucent through the still perfect-fitting stones. We can see through it, see something moving. A great mass, wet and fleshy, moving through brightly colored pools, the surrounding ground veined and pulsing, slowly, like a heart. Wisps of light flicker about, giving us a glimpse of eyes, deep and knowing.
Eyes that look into our souls, and we find ourselves bared. We are stripped down, torn apart, broken into our respective fundamental elements. Someone manages to pull us away and we fall to the floor, each of us crying, each of us confused and afraid.
That is when I forget my name. I still cannot remember.
There are some memories I do not think are my own. I was a Muslim, I am a woman, I think. But sometimes I see myself as a boy, a memory of Christmas morning and singing in a boat going down the Seine trying to seduce a young woman who is laughing. I do not think I did any of these things. But it is getting hard to tell.
There is a young woman. Her name is Marceline, and she is from a suburb of Paris called Vincennes. We go on a date in the middle of the night, and have sex, giggling as we almost overturn our boat.
Something was watching us, then. Watching me now. I think it will forever watch me, that there is a piece of it inside me.
We ran from that alcove, ran down the tunnels not worrying where they lead, never wondering if what we were running towards could be worse than what we had left behind.
The tunnels branched further and at some point fishing line snapped. Five became four as one more was lost in the psychedelic halls. I think I saw an arm grab her, three-fingered with pebbled skin and cracked, crystal claws.
Her name was Rosa, Rosa Johnson, and she was from Nigeria. She studied sharks because animals didn’t murder or lie, and sharks easier to understand than people. Something very terrible happened to her once.
I don’t like to remember.
I seem to know a lot about her. Maybe she’s me?
No, no. I was a Muslim, I think. I had a name, different from Rosa Johnson. Something in Arabic, something that my mother gave me.
I do not think I had a father. If I did maybe not a good one. It is hard to remember.
We find another room, or another room finds us. Sometimes it feels like the latter. The walls are still stone, black and featureless, the seams so thin they can barely be seen, and not at all felt.
Something is moving beneath me. This room is alive. I can feel it.
There is an alien sky above us, gas giants circling where moons should be. I don’t know much astronomy, but something tells me they should never be that close. Stars matching no constellations I have ever seen move across the dark purple sky, sliding down behind living mountains.
The stone walls give way to green, muscular strands, layered atop each other to form rolling hills, covered in glowing pustules that are hard to the touch.
A great sigh moves through the earth, and we flee back through the door, into the safety of the ever-shifting, ever even hall. We are careful to hold hands, the four of us left.
We do not bother with fishing line knots.
In the tunnel, we sit, exhausted, and hoping that walls are as solid as they seem, and nothing will come through them. We try to figure out what’s happening to us, to see.
Their faces are all so clear but I cannot quite place them, I share their memories but not their names. Only when we are dead do things become clear, do we become solid, unchanging. Not the body; that goes the worms and the bacteria, or whatever there is here. Someone says something about time, whether with the space bending at all, what happens with the time. WIll a hundred years have past when we return?
If we return. Whether all that passes is a moment or a millenium, outside, I do not think it will matter. None of our minds is whole anymore.
Everything on our Earth seems so small right now. Our cities, our monuments, the things we thought we understood. The things we didn’t understand. That space we labelled God.
Eventually we say we have to move, but there is a weariness to us all. An unspoken agreement that yes, we are all going to die here. There is no search for answers now; we know we will never understand. Not in our lifetimes, or any.
Someone shares a canteen with me, and I realize I cannot remember the last time I had a drink. I wonder too, why I feel no need to pee, or shit. The smell answers that question, and the darkness in the others’ pants.
One more of us is taken in the hall. Jans, from Germany. Munich, I think. His favorite color was blue, and he always talked about the street vendors in Munich like they were the greatest thing in the world.
Those bratwurst did taste good.
Was I him?
No, no. Because he must be dead. I am not from Germany, I am from somewhere else.
I was Muslim, I think. I am female. I think.
We are all scientists.
Three of us left. We search for spraypaint, try to find meaning in our GPS and smartphones. Our compasses do not even spin, now.
Someone taps out a few notes on their smartphone, tries to send a text with tears dripping onto the screen.
The suggested words are no longer chicken, no longer barn.
Instead, they say endless. They say death.
I tap out a note and find that it says, in a language that is not my own,
Open the Door, Open the Way.
There is a word that follows. Maybe a name, but maybe that is the fault of the human mind, searching for meaning in any jumble of syllables.
A prophecy? Some sort of divine warming? Something to do, to save ourselves? We are so powerless here I cannot imagine we have any sort of actual utility. Nothing we can do will change anything. Our every action is miniscule on the grander scale. I could say universal, but I am not so sure that what we have seen is within that minute realm.
We walk through the hall and find our way to a darker turn, though such a term feels like a laughable moniker. The stone walls, perfect and even become broken and bent, and not in the way that it was before. Cracks and wide seams, cool water, smelling like petrol, dripping from the walls. Our flashlights fail us, the batteries flickering out and leaving us in the dark. No one cries out. In a way, it is comforting. We can only rely on touch, and nothing lies to the hands.
We hold hands, and stand in a circle, unwilling to go on.
Someone cries that they cannot go on, that this has to be the end for them.
We say we need to sleep. That we are too tired, that there will be no way out if we keep pushing ourselves. We need to use our heads to escape, or there will be an endless death for all of us.
We sit down to sleep, to rest our heads. Someone takes out their smartphone and puts it between us; the screen flickers, almost like a real flame. An electronic campfire that gives no warmth.
I am unsure if we slept, just as I am unsure if we sleep now. How awful it is to be so uncertain of everything. Every other thought a question, an attempt to define this nebulous existence that is all that I know.
Something comes, in nightmare or in real, and when we find our senses, three is become two. Another gone; we do not venture down that hall, do not discover what lays beyond the broken stone.
The tunnel branches and folds, always the same, until we find the alcove again. This time, we do not look through. We crawl on our hands and knees until it is passed, then we run, the sight of something familiar, even if it is darkness and evil, gives us hope that we are finding the proper way.
Then the hall opens, a portal into wide-open space, the light of galaxies and stars hard and cold. The edge of the universe visible like the horizon from the edge of the atmosphere. A curvature in everything, beyond which there is a place where we cannot go, we cannot see, but something is. A grand Thing, an Elder Thing.
It speaks to us, the words sibilant and sinister, alien and yet so human.
One of us takes out a knife, a long steel thing with one razor sharp edge. One of us cuts his throat, lets the blood spill out into space, freezing into tiny drops of ice, the only things that twinkle.
Two becomes one, and now I am alone. Have I always been alone? Was it just me, all this time? Do these dark walls lie? Am I in truth in some asylum, locked within padded walls and wrapped in cloth.
No. I know, as I write this, wherever I am, that I was not always alone.
His name was Pierre, and I think we had sex once.
It’s just me now. The past becomes blurred, the now inconsistent. The future, oddly clear.
Open the Gate, Open the Way.
Cthagn b’ sothoth i’aven, utoor qtha i’a.
I’a. I’a.
I know my old name now, but there is only room for one.

Monday, October 15, 2012


"Father, why must we give the gods water? Didn't they make everything?"
    "My son, the gods did not make everything, they simply shaped and formed what they found. Gods do not come from nothingness, after all."
    "But why can't they make water?"
    "It is not that they cannot, but that they do not. They gifted us with life, and so it is our duty to repay them with simple gifts of water. We are lucky to have such benevolent gods - they ask for only water, which is plentiful and easy to find. Imagine if they required stones like the one around your neck!"
    Theoul regarded the shiny black stone swinging on the string round his neck. His father had found it while hunting one day and brought it to him - saying it would bring him luck, and that the gods would shine on his actions. "But I still don't understand why they need it." Theoul said.
    "Theoul, do you not need water? Do you not need food, and warmth, and shelter? You need friends, family, teaching, safety. You have so many needs - would you begrudge their one? It is a mark of their power that they need only this and nothing else."
    "You don't need anything." Theoul said grumpily. "You're better than those stupid gods."
    "Son, I have as many needs as you - if not more. I provide for your needs, and the gods provide for mine. It is they that have allowed me to have you, your mother, and never want for food and drink. Our weather is always fair, and we are protected from all that would harm us."
    "Like the mist?" His father had taken him to the mists once, the border of their world. They were a strange yellow-reddish color, and were nearly opaque - he thought he could see shapes moving within, like the monsters the elders always told stories about, but when he'd told his father he'd simply laughed and patted him on the head.
    "The mists most of all. Once our world was all like this, but then the mists came and only the gods saved our land. Without them, even this land would be covered, and you and I would not be here."
    "Hmpf! We don't need them, you could protect us from the mist!"
    "My son, if the gods failed us and the mists approached, I could not stop them. Only the gods keep the mists at bay, and that is why I happily collect and bring them water. And so will you. Now pick up your pail."
    Theoul frowned and considered just crossing his arms and squatting down, refusing to move until his father agreed with him, but thought better of it. His father took the gods far more seriously than other things, and Theoul didn't feel like being spanked. He dutifully picked up his water pail and followed after.
    The village square was full of people - everyone came out on Godsday. His whole extended family was there, all his aunts, uncles, cousins and even his great-grandparents. Each and every one had a pail full of water. Each and every one stood encircling the black tower that reached into the sky. The village elder, her whole body painted in bright hues, the massive black amulet that signified her closeness with the gods taking up almost her entire chest, walked to the tower's hemispherical base and spread her arms wide. "Another season has passed, and once again the gods have kept us safe. We have suffered, yes, from hunting accidents to winter storms, but it has only been to give us character. Never forget that all that we have, we have been given by the gods. Now, let us pray and give thanks." She turned to the spire, pressing the amulet against it and chanting the strange words that had been passed down for generations. Theoul looked at her amulet, and his own necklace - If Theoul's brain could have, it would have clicked. The metal was the same.
"Oh-pehn Mayn-Tien-Ans Hach" The spire hummed and bright lines of blue light streaked in strange, angular patterns upwards from the base. With a puff of steam, a section of the base separated and slid outwards towards villagers. "Thank the gods and each give your water."
    Theoul stepped in line with his family as they slowly marched towards the open segment, dumping their pails into the spire's waiting mouth. Could I open it like that? he wondered. His father stood behind him, and when it was Theoul's turn he made sure he did not spill a single drop. "Thank you." He whispered.
    "Now, let's go have a feast, eh?" His father grinned and slapped him on the shoulder.
    The feast was a grand affair, the whole village dancing and singing - those of age were drinking spirits and smoking plants, causing them to drift into strange, talking sleeps. Theoul waited, fingering his necklace. He had to wait until they were all asleep - or at least drunk enough to not notice. Hours passed, but finally he had his chance. He walked to the spire and placed his necklace on the base. "Oh-pan Man-Ten-Anz Haks" A moment passed, and he spoke again, trying to remember the elder's strange pronunciation. This time, the spire hummed and lit as before. The segment opened in front of him, and he peered into it. As far as he could see, there was nothing, empty darkness. Wait - a small glimmer of light at what he thought was the bottom. Leaning forward to investigate, Theoul found himself sliding headfirst down the shaft. A blue light rose up to meet him. He found himself staring at dozen glowing green pillars, then everything went black.
"Jim, I'm seeing a malfunction in the Ilya unit, looks like one fell into the maintenance shaft."
"Ilya? Those little four armed guys?"
"Yeah, what do you want to do? We're not supposed to interfere anymore."
"Eh, send a maintenance bot."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Legal thoughts on using noScript and other code-blocking devices.

Argument against: Services provided are funded in part by blockable code. Users are therefore discounting their “free” service without provider permission.

Argument for: Service is not really “free” per se. Users are automatically donating their personal information which is then monetized by the either the servicer directly or third-party partners not necessarily previously contracted with the user. In the case of facebook and other social media that travel with the user, this is whether you have an account, have agreed to share your information and agreed to let them track you.

Secondary thoughts:

Is Facebook’s policy of construction “shadow” profiles for users based on information provided through access to (from facebook’s point of view) “partners” otherwise known as websites you would normally be tracked at if you were a facebook user.

This only seems okay if facebook is the considered a parent company to what would then be subsidiary websites. Arguably this could be any site that recieves a majority of its funds from facebook’s purchasing of their collected personal information.

It kind of seems like a gang, now that i think about it, where the big mafia don requires that everyone that lives in his part of town be followed and watched to see what they’re doing. Just constantly watch them, and every vendor in the area would be required to tell who was in their store that day.

All well and fine if you’ve agreed to it, the vast invasion of privacy is your way of living essentially “tax free.”

But what about someone who lives outside of the Mafia don facebook’s domain who just drives in to come to a store they like that just happens to be in his territory. He still collects all the same information, but he never asked.

It’s facebook’s secret police.

Does noscript control how much I pay for facebook? Yes. But if I didn’t have it, I would just be paying everything all the time. For a service I almost never use. Heavy users don’t care if facebook tracks them, they’re fine being pimped out by the don, going to all the stores he suggests and buying whatever he tells them to. The rewards are there. But for someone who just wants to keep in touch?

Well, it went from legalese to waxing rhetoric. It’s what happens when you’re hanging with Mar

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Case for the Right to Piracy

First off, lets state some things. Making money is not bad, and not evil in and of itself. (Though I hate it out of principle.) The desire to make money (also known as greed) is not inherently evil.
Neither is piracy.
I want to state early on, and as clearly as possible, what piracy really should be viewed as. An alternate payment model. One the content producer is not choosing. Is this bad? Yes and no. Piracy is the consumers way of forcing you off a pay-first basis, and into a pay-later process. The same sort of business deals that go on between companies on a daily basis. You ask for this service (in this case, the constant demand for entertainment service), you are quoted a price (the asking price of the game) and then, after service is rendered and judged good or poor (or in this case, how much you enjoyed it) the servicer is paid.
Think of it like construction. You don’t pay up front for a building that hasn’t been built. You agree on a time it can be done by up front, work out everything that will be in place, then pay when its built. If the demand is big enough, someone will be willing to meet it, even it if means less profit. Why do you think government contracts never get done? The feds pay up front. There’s zero risk calculation involved in the handover of money to any individual. Someone says “this is how much it will take” and they say yes. No corporation is going to risk that much potential loss (especially if they don’t have the entire US budget behind them) on something before its completed and proven to work as specified. If you pay up front, you are getting shafted on your end of the deal.
What if someone takes your service, fitfully rendered, and doesn’t pay?
That person is bad. They are the bad ones now, and the servicer is the one who just got shafted.
Here’s where the argument about ‘taste’ will probably come in. “A book or movie isn’t like a building or a car -- it doesn’t have specifications. Not everyone is going to like every movie.”
But to me this ones already pretty much solved. Since you pay up front for movies, people don’t go and see movies that they know they wont like. Previews take the guessing game out of entertainment, allowing the consumer significantly less risk when purchasing their allotted “fun time” from an entertainment servicer. That’s already the case, and you’re not getting their sales because if they see your preview, and decide they already don’t like it, then they’re never going to see it. If you offer the movie in your theatres for free (still raking in the insane prices on food and drinks) and then have simple payment options provided in seat or by smarphone app, you will still have people that pay, people who enjoyed the movie. They’ve already eaten and drank at extremely upcharged prices, why should they balk at spending a few more on something they really enjoyed?
Boom. Give some suggested prices, make it a little bigger on the screen or something, then put a custom option.
Think of it like webcomics. An industry that is seriously blowing up in power now. Conventions like PAX cannot be ignored, and the personal people power these artists wield directly through media like twitter, facebook, youtube and their own websites makes the public support of the entire MPAA look like a middle school pep rally. Honestly, I think that’s pretty generous. I just went to a terrible middle school. Most probably have quite a few more attendants. I dont think the MPAA has fans. Not ones it doesn’t pay, anyways.
Think about that. There exist, people who make their livings off of providing a free entertainment service, with their only income advertising, accessories (totes, shirts, figurines, all things the movie industry excels at promoting) and donations. Donations. Everything webcomic artists sell is overpriced. You think it costs 38 dollars to screen a Penny Arcade logo onto a piece of fabric? No, but we pay that much because we fucking love Penny Arcade. I myself have purchased insanely overpriced Steam merchandise, because Valve owns my heart and soul. In large part due to the vast ocean of Half Life (1 and 2) mods and remakes. Do I pay up front for every Valve game? Yes, god yes. But if they started to become terrible, if they truly started failing as a company, I would stop giving them my money. I would play their games to see if they were good before handing it over.
EA, for instance, is on this current list. After Spore was illegally released 3 days early, and then I could not access my pre loaded game on midnight of official release, instead having to wait until noon the day of, I was upset -- even though I already had downloaded the game off TPB. Then, when the game was an awful travesty of what I had been promised, with features of the game noticeably worse than in the damned demo, which only allowed you to make creatures, I was really angry. I had paid up front for something that by the end of my experience, left me drained and vengeful. I honestly played all the fun parts of the game before it officially released. I had already paid for it, why wouldn’t I download it early if I could?
You already had my money.
I haven’t bought an EA game since without watching someone else play it first. I honestly don’t even pirate them because I am not interested in their products unless someone tells me it is really good. I don’t want to bother wasting my time.
Offer me your games for free, EA, and you will see my money.
I promise. All DRM has done is make me want to pay less. Pirates often remove such obnoxious features as hardware checking (or in the past, disk checking) that made playing the game completely pointless. I only get to install it three times? I’ve reinstalled Half-Life one more times than I have digits, everywhere I could. Hell, I got a tattoo of Homeworld. If one of the original programmers asked me for a kidney I would probably fucking do it. Spore? Fallout 3? I played them because I’m a huge fanboy, and very moment I did so was a tearing knife-wound upon my soul. I’m less of a fanboy now, because I’ve been let down by the pay-first model so many times.
I suppose that means I don’t promise to pay. Not exactly. I promise to pay if they’re good. That’s where we all should be. Fandom. Fans will pay more. Fans will pay out the ass for things they absolutely do not need.
Do movie studios even have fans? Disney, and Pixar, perhaps. Disney because, well, they’ve enslaved our daughters with princess fantasies and Pixar because they produce a great product. Their movies have started to be less great recently (Cars 2 is a good example. It was good, but not what I consider to be Pixar good) I didn’t see it. I haven’t downloaded it either. I’m just waiting for it to come out on Netflix because that is what is most convenient for me. I used to pirate everything! Now I only do it if acquiring it otherwise is difficult or what I consider to be overpriced.
I want to pay you, just not that much.
I mean that both ways. I’m not willing to pay that much, so I don’t pay. If I could pay less than that much, I would pay.
Why don’t you let me pay?
I’m serious. There is real profit to be found here, as well. True, many webcomic artists live less than royal lives, but you can watch their fortunes improve with their fandom. Random doodles on the internet in their spare time becomes working a part time job to pursue more doodles, which leads to selling those doodles to people who want them or copies of the doodles attached to other things, which leads to quitting your part time job and concentrating on making doodles full-time. This story has repeated itself over and over. The only thing stopping many of these comics from going to the big leagues is that they are arriving late to the game, its very crowded, and the public’s attention spotlight has a narrow beam.
As an entertainment company going to Free to See, you will have to be good. Old time partnerships will not outlast the public’s fickle will. But if you are good, your profits will soar. People are already used to going to the cinema to see films, but because now you can just get them online for free, people are leaving the cinema in droves. That’s because the added experience of seeing it in the cinema is not worth the price they pay -- NOT because they are unwilling to pay. Make the cinema free and you will see lines.
Now there’s this little problem with human greed. People who come to your show, watch your stuff, enjoy it, laughing at your jokes and weeping at your stories, and then don’t pay a dime. Assuming they didn’t bring their own food, you already made money off them, just not as much as you were planning. Otherwise it’s pure loss. How can you make these people pay?
My personal thought? Just let them go. Engage your fans properly and people like this will be ostracized by your own consumers. You may experience the odd lone-wolf thief who just comes in and sees them alone and then runs away, or gaggles of poor teens who just want to see a flick, but that should be okay. Those kinds of kids already sneak into theatres, and the rest are usually spending their parents money, so why not donate if they liked it? Make paying convenient and enforce it just like the silent cellphone mandates (which fans and managers already use to kick people out of theatres) and you will see even these greedsters’ numbers drop.
I am telling you this as a normal, greedy, selfish white man. White people love politeness. After seeing a movie, if you liked it, it’s polite to pay. If you didn’t like it, or paid less than what the content producer thought it was worth, its polite to say why.
So you, the content service, can refine your methods, and produce a better product, that more people are willing to pay for. People only steal movies because they can’t sue someone for making a bad movie, like you would in any other industry where a service has been rendered. There’s no way to get your money back. So people get angry. If you never had to pay, why get angry? You might be annoyed, but if so, you’ll probably leave some feedback.
Take it, content providers, and listen.
Right now, the system works like this:
Consumer has demand. A content producer wants to fill that demand. They have always been paid up front. Therefore they want to make sure they gets paid, and looks at what worked before. After some minor tweaks and changes to what they produced before, the producer tells everyone its going to be amazing and then asks for cash up front.
What happens? The same crap over and over and over again. People don’t want to pay for crap that just looks like the same shit they already own. To make a video game example, Fallout 3 versus Skyrim is a good example.
Play a two-handed warrior in both games and your experience will feel identical. The only difference will be textures and a few abilities. Game engines are expensive, yes, I understand that’s potentially why they don’t do anything interesting beyond what they have, but there’s no innovation, because there’s no need. I play Skyrim on my roommate’s computer, and have not paid for it. He did. I didn’t want to purchase it outright because Bethesda’s last two RPGs were disappointing. Skyrim is like the good version of Oblivion and Fallout put together. I wish I had paid for that instead of those two, because I felt like my experience with the other was worth significantly less than 60 dollars each. But still worth money.
Advertising guarantees initial sales regardless of quality, and since its a pay-first model, you as the consumer, lose. If you’re a movie that’s bad or badly advertised, you’ll drop almost instantly on or after opening night. Here’s where making it free actually helps. Free shit means more people. Offer something for free and you will have instant interest. Good/well advertised movies already sell out, forcing people to either choose another or leave. Choosing another means spending the same amount of money that you were willing to spend on something you wanted and forcing you to spend it on something you’re not sure that you’re interested in. That’s a risk, and people don’t want to take those. Offer it for free, and the risk of financial loss is removed. Your movie may not seem as good as the movie they wanted to see, but hey, its free isn’t it? Then at the end, when they are pleasantly surprised at the quality of your movie, they pay. Maybe not as much as they would have paid for that thing they wanted to see and asked for, but its more than you would have made. No more empty theatres. Constant food sales. And we all know that $10 popcorn and $5 drinks are where the money is being made.
People watch online because it’s convenient and they don’t feel like they have to be perfectly entertained at every second. If its free, and good enough, they’ll take it. But when they really want to be entertained, or they really enjoyed something, they will pay. Denying this forces potential customers into the hands of Russian streamers, who make money off of you with additional advertising, viruses and malware. Why let foreign mobsters make money off your product just because you’re unwilling to make it more convenient for your consumers to watch it?
They’re doing it anyways. You’re not stopping anyone from streaming things illegally if they dont feel its worth paying for. We -- my actual roommate and I -- are ditching cable and going full streaming because paying for something that also has advertising when I can get it for free still with advertising on the internet, is insane and stupid. The only thing on cable we wanted was sports, but there are no custom cable packages. So now we will stream them, and somehow give money to god-knows who unless its on FSN or ESPN3, because there is not other way to get the kind of service we are looking for.
The demand is there, and its not being met because the pay-first model encourages static behaviors and playing safe. Guys, people are still going to see romantic comedies over and over again, even if they are all the same plot. LIFE is the same plot. People aren’t going to stop going to the theatres unless you force them away. Because you’re not letting me pay you some other way, we are going away. Movies, video games, books, newspapers, its all the same. There will always be blockbuster games that require a lot of money, but if you have a good enough reputation, and rabid enough fans, they will pay years ahead of time for your product. They will make financially irresponsible decisions just to ensure the release of their next favourite thing.
Lets sum up.
People who take something, enjoy it, use it and don’t, are bad. That is evil, so to speak.
People who make a shitty product, lie to you about it and ask for money up front, are bad. That is evil.
With boy pay-first and pay-later models, you are relying on both sides holding up their side of the bargain.
With one, you assume the content you receive will be of high quality. With the other, you assume people who receive your service and were satisfied to pay.
With both, if that agreement breaks down, everything suffers. The key difference is in who controls the market. Or rather, attempts to control the market. Only the consumer, in the end, controls the market. The people are too numerous to be defeated. Pay-first has brought us to a situation in which the suppliers are attempting to control the direction and flow of demand. That is not how this works.
Demand flows. Supply meets demand. Demand does not go where supply permits unless forced, and no one likes being forced. There is no reason to force anyone anywhere for entertainment. Entertainment is demanded everywhere and can be provided in any form. Attempting to control your market to keep your medium alive will only result in extinction. I’m sure actual theatres attempted to fight the onslaught of cinema, but they ultimately failed. Cinema was cheap and easy to do. Now traditional theatre is a niche market, profitable but only through extreme prices -- that people are willing to pay.
Cinema is going down that road because home video is even cheaper and Youtube is free, but there’s only one problem.
Almost every movie coming out of Hollywood is shit.
No one is going to pay fifty dollars a seat for Battleship. But I would definitely pay $5. Not $11 though.

Just sayin.