Friday, December 31, 2010

Paying Attention to TV

In my former life, which I now inhabit temporarily, I'm a holdout for plain-old over-the-air pre-HD TV. Which means I petty much don't watch TV, except for rented movies. But when I do watch, I'm struck with the ads for upgrading your viewing experience. It's not just the 3D, which I witnessed over at Sears and which actually works about as well as at the movies, but it's the various ways to stream the Internet directly to your big screen, or to have the show follow you from room to room, or device to device even onto the diminutive screens we hold in our hands. 

Some of the ads show happy people chasing fight scenes room to room, or waiting in the doctor's office delighted by some romance in ones hand, or maybe waiting for the little woman to finish shopping and cheering for his favorite sports team. You can even leverage your purchase of copyrighted shows and have them boosted out across the Internet for your watching from somewhere else.

In among this noise, I'm reminded yet again of my uncle's memorial service up at SUNY Oneonta, where they now have an annual media summit named for him. I was at the first so-named summit, and remember the earnest pleas from panelists to students to please don't steal this content. There was almost a panic that once the genie was out of the bottle there would be no way to contain and charge for it. And that without pay, there would be no more good stuff to watch or read or listen to. 

Which might be true for all I know, but one does have to question how good any of it really is. And anyhow, the price for entry keeps going up and up, doesn't it? These big flat screens, especially the ones with 3D, aren't exactly free. We still pay for Internet. It doesn't seem a matter of protecting content so much as it does a matter of distribution of the profits. As always, it's not the authors getting the lion's share. Anyhow, the schlockier it is the more likely the distributor will pay you to watch it somehow, either by providing feeds free to the distribution channel, or by ads or whatnot, or just by making the content as lurid as Jerry Springer or Maury Povitch, who are just really really gross.

This all does a pretty decent job of burying the good stuff beneath the noise of commercial distribution. How many really good bands you might catch at a bar get known? How much good writing makes it beyond the Harry Potterish drivel (and they are so greedy they won't even let you read it on your Kindle!)? How many good TV shows? 

Well, I wouldn't know since I don't watch it. I guess there is some really really good TV out there. Mostly, it has a subversive theme, like living off pot sales, or maybe making fun of undertakers. I've heard of such things, but every time I try to watch it I get bored out of my skull since I might have written it myself. 

I like to watch stuff like Mongolian Ping-Pong, which is nothing like anything I could ever imagine all on my own. I don't really like to watch people like me anymore, or sports where you pretty much already know someone's going to win. It isn't that thrilling to laugh at someone who makes jokes like I would make if I could make jokes. Anyhow, being famous seems to make one rich just in and of itself, vis Kardashian (I've heard), and so I really don't see what all the fuss about copyright is. People should just want their stuff all out there all the time. And then they'd be famous and then they'd be rich. 

Well, what do I know?

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