28 February 2011

I Don't Like Mondays

These link sausages are guaranteed to be free of being and nothingness.

  • Later this week, Apple is probably (at present, in rumor only) going to announce a new version of the iPad. Across the pond at the Grauniad, Charlie Booker describes the attitude problem behind Apple products:

    They make you feel good, Apple products. The little touches: the rounded corners, the strokeable screens, the satisfying clunk as you fold the Macbook shut – it's serene. Untroubled. Like being on Valium.

    Until, that is, you try to do something Apple doesn't want you to do. At which point you realise your shiny chum isn't on your side. It doesn't even understand sides. Only Apple: always Apple.

    This attitude is what I've been complaining about for decades now. If you don't do exactly what Steve Jobs does exactly the way he does it — and, in particular, if you believe in the necessity of documenting your sources in your writing instead of relying on inept and misleading graphics — Apple products are not for you. Neither are Apple products for you if you like to tinker under the hood or have a choice in meaningful accessories and/or content to use on those Apple products.

       I guess I am an Apple hater — not for the tech advances, but for the business practices and enforced conformity. It's sort of ironic to contrast the wild chaos and nonconformity of the Windows world with the 1984-like imagery of the notorious Super Bowl commercial (imagery which, as a sometime Orwell scholar, I find incompatible with the overall sense of quietness in the novel, but that's an argument for another time).

    Speaking of which, I don't own a dedicated e-reader. And I won't even consider doing so — despite their undoubted potential utility — until there's one that:

    • Handles the academic and law-practice/source standard for electronic documents (PDF files) in native mode; and
    • Uses, as its preferred file format, an open standard (I'm not really that picky on which one); and
    • Allows a manual, switched (not software-based) rejection of "syncing," for both wired and wireless connections (and, by the way, allows one to turn off wireless connectivity and power-draining); and
    • Maintains some sense of fidelity on page numbers; and
    • Uses standard SD cards up to 16gb with hot-swapping and no proprietary software required for creating/indexing/recognizing/transferring data; and
    • Runs on one or two standard AAA user-replaceable batteries for at least 100 hours of actual use with at least 21 days of standby in addition (hot-swappable, too); and
    • Has a non-glare screen of at least 22cm by 15cm at reasonable resolution (color optional, but would be nice if it doesn't cut into battery life); and
    • Is not tied to any "bookshelf" system that allows a third party to know what content is on the device, let alone delete or force storage of it, and ignores all purported territorial restrictions; and
    • Has built-in DRM-defeating measures giving the finger to Chapter 12 so that I can have multiple copies of the same damned work on multiple machines, not that I'm going to be reading them on multiple machines simultaneously; and
    • Costs in two figures or less, with no required subscriptions of any kind.

    That way, I won't feel like I'm renting from Skynet.

  • Yeah, the Oscars are over. The awards ceremony was boring, but more importantly it was too damned soon. This year bears a disturbing resemblance to 1979, with the Academy using a warm-but-not-yet-hot-button-social-issue film (of more-than-usual worth for the type) to make up for past improprieties, at the expense — in all but one category — of superior performances/efforts/works. Colin Firth is a marvelous actor, and turned in a nuanced performance... but that, really, is about it for The King's Speech, at least in comparison to some of the competition. I don't think that in five years' time we'll be forgetting about The King's Speech in the same way that we did about Kramer v. Kramer by 1985, but it's not all that inapt a comparison.

    These Academy Awards needed Ricky Gervais or Jon Stewart to mock more of the bullshit. Unfortunately, the egos out there are far too fragile for that!

  • Neil Gaiman offers the definitive refutation of the "information wants to be free" nonsense concerning copyright violations on the 'net:

    "No, that's pizza," I want to tell them. "Pizza wants to be free. Concentrate on liberating pizza from evil pizzerias. Information, on the other hand, really hates being free, and is never happier than when manacled to a wall, like Kirk and Spock in some piece of late 70s bondage-oriented slash fiction."

    (italics in original) My more prosaic rejoinder — "Entertainment is more than just information, and entertainers want to be paid" — pales in comparison to bondage-oriented slash fiction. Actually, it probably pales at the very concept of bondage-oriented slash fiction; it's not exactly a prude, but it does have some limits (and some taste).

  • The off-screen antics of Charlie Sheen are far funnier than the show; I've never managed to make it more than ten minutes into an episode the few times I've tried. Some of them, anyway. Sadly, that goes for his antiintellectual boss, too: In claiming that "Lorre" (and, by implication, every other sitcom showrunner) tends toward tyranny, Sheen is not too far off target. Now contrast this (and the relatively strong actors' union) with the incipient labor unrest of public employees and the purported justification for union-busting there, and elsewhere in the entertainment industry, and one can see what the real meme is. In the eyes of those who have substantial financial capital, only financial capital has the right to organize — not workers, and certainly not (potential) voters.

    Ya know, given the leap from Charlie Sheen to election reform, that preceding paragraph looks a lot like either a stereotypical conspiracy theory or a severe caffeine deficiency following a sleepless night. And there's probably something to that, although the caffeine deficiency may well be impairing my analytical skills... but that doesn't make the statement of the underlying attitude any less accurate despite its hyperbole.