Monthly Archives: March 2006
If you look around on the internet, you’ll be able to find lots of stuff about intellectual property. Things like Creative Commons are trying to create a new dynamic between creator and use. I support this sort of stuff, but honestly, I’m not opposed to traditional copyright — within certain limits. What’s going wrong with copyright (You like that? It’s called a pun.) is that there is a major push to continue to extend the time limit. How is a culture supposed to function if nothing that culture produces ever becomes public domain? Where would we be if Homer’s descendants could sue James Joyce over Ulysses? Things like Mickey Mouse and Superman are at the cusp of entering this cultural consciousness to the same extent, but the companies who presently control the ideas want to prevent their free use. In all reality, though, there does come a point where a concept like Superman moves beyond being a character in entertainment and enters into a sort of cultural mythology. And when that happens, the idea ceases to belong to anyone. Or rather, it starts to belong to everyone.
One of the great ironies to the present intellectual property struggles is that two of the major players are the traditional big comic companies: DC and Marvel. The primary philosophical argument in support of copyright is that it is designed to protect a creator’s ability to derive benefit from his/her creation. But when the DC and Marvel super-heroes were created that didn’t happen. The people who actually came up with the ideas worked in a time and system that demanded they turned over all rights to anything they created to the company. Some of the families finally won legal battles decades later to some compensation and control. The fact remains, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster didn’t see a fragment of the benefit from Superman that DC saw. And compared to most classic comics creators, they were lucky.
Speaking of DC, Marvel, and intellectual property atrocities . . .
You know that word super-hero I used? You know, the one that’s a part of the American language the same way astronaut or cowboy is? Well, DC and Marvel have jointly filed to trademark the word. Trademarks far more restrictive than copyrights, and can be renewed ad infinitum. So that’s pretty fucking ridiculous.
I guess I subconsciously decided to take a Spring Break from this thing last week, too. I don’t feel like I accomplished much during Spring Break. Of course, it’s not quite a full-on break when you’re still working forty hours. Still, I had visions of doing some writing, drawing, and computer art that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. It didn’t happen. I did read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for school. That was about it. Oh yeah, and I . . . wait, no, that was it. Actually, I did get to spend some more quality time with Elise, which is always nice.
I’ve started using Bloglines recently. I’m quite happy with it. The “news” in the sense of headlines of a global, national, or local sense I still get from other venues; I view my Bloglines feeds as more casual or niche reading, things like AICN, Wired, or Boing Boing. Of course, I also use it to read blogs (as the name would indicate), be they independent and interesting or simply part of a friend’s MySpace. I think one of my favorite aspects is the ability to read the whole story in the Bloglines window, as long as the feed it’s coming from is set up for that. Even when it isn’t, the centralized headline viewing is convenient. If you haven’t started exploiting this whole “Web 2.0” RSS feed thing, you really should.
There are interesting conversations happening at the doppelganger forum. They would be even more interesting if we had more than three or four people regularly contributing. Why haven’t you joined? Don’t you realize that this will make your life better or, failing that, provide you with some place to insult people so you can feel marginally less pain from your pathetic existence? Plus, you’ll be up to date on the soon to be released doppelganger #1!
I don’t know off the top of my head what the dictionary definition of genius is, but I’m pretty sure Will Wright qualifies. Wright, for those who don’t know, is the programmer and game developer who created SimCity and pretty much any other game with “Sim” in its title. The latest Maxis project to be spearheaded by Wright is Spore. There would be no quick and easy way for me to describe the game besides “SimEverything.” It took home all the big awards at last year’s E3 and another surge of excitement has been brewing lately, fueled by the posting of this video. The video is from said E3 but the panel was industry only. It’s only been recently the gaming public has gotten to see this footage of the game in action. Considering the advanced stage of development the game appears to be at in the footage, shot last March, it seems that the game will probably release before the end of 2006.
Spore appears to be another innovation that distorts and blurs the notion of what exactly a “game” is. Wright himself said that he wanted to make something that would spur players to walk away from the game and have conversations with each other about philosophy and the basics of existence. We’ve come a long way from Pong, without a doubt. But in a sense Spore could be looked at as a sort of Pong in itself, a genesis for an entirely new user/technology dynamic. Spore could just as easily be called “SimGod” if Maxis didn’t have to worry about losing sales.
Watching the video and thinking about Spore reminded me of when my friend Ian and I used to have extensive conversations about the nature of the mind. The discussions would mostly center on whether the mind, as the final piece of our evolutionary make-up, would continue over millions of years to evolve to the point where it would no longer be dependent on the body. Or, in a similar vein, what the implications would be if science could come to a fundamental understanding of how the impulses in the brain create the mind. If this hypothetical leap could be made then it wouldn’t exactly be a hypothetical long-shot to suppose that the next development would be the capability to transfer an existing mind into a different storage device. It is a given that said storage device would have to at least have the processing capacity of the human brain. It is also a given that the brain is capable of creating remarkably complex and extremely real fantasy scenarios, as it does every night when we enter r.e.m. sleep. It would therefore not be surprising if we were to find that a mind in this circumstance, freed of its dependence on the body, were to spend much (if not all) of its time deeply engaged in such dreams. Allowing such a scenario to play out indefinitely, it would seem likely that consciousness would filter into these dreams sooner or later. There is already an analogous experience for this, the so-called lucid dream. People who experience lucid dreams say that it becomes easier to manipulate these dreams the more they experience them. With no “real world” for the body to be jolted awake in, if the storage device can hypothetically store the mind for an infinite period of time then the mind would become infinitely more involved in infinitely more complex dreams. At what point in this experience does the human mind become indistinguishable from the concept of God?
So Spore is to being God what Pong is to an Xbox 360. Alright, I say that tongue firmly planted in cheek and more than ready to laugh in my own face. But there is a sliver of truth there. Or if not truth, there’s at least an interesting topic for discussion about the nature of electronic “games” and our relationship with them.
In other news, the Doppelganger site is up! Go there! Make sure to visit the forum and sign up. Not only will you have a great venue to discuss all things pop culture in, but you’ll also find out when you can get your own Burt Ward ball-gag t-shirt. It’s what all the cool kids will be wearing.
I also added a couple things to the poetry section and will hopefully add a few more soon. These are all old things, which reminds me that I am not writing enough.
I was elated this week when, for the first time since I started this blog, I caught the episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force that inspired its name. More accurately, it inspired Randy, Greco, Bob Krol, and I (among others) to repeatedly quote Carl’s brilliant line, “It don’t matta. Nunna dis mattas.” What we recognized at once about this was that while he may have been directly talking about the formalities of a wedding with a Chechnyan mail-order bride, Carl’s words really apply to the entire shared illusion of modern society. Over analyzing? I think not.
Anyone not familiar with the episode (or for that matter the series *gasp*) owes it to themselves to check it out. I believe it is in the second season, handily available on DVD. If anyone does actually check out the show for the first time based on this, I will add this caveat: if you can’t appreciate the absurd, you probably shouldn’t bother. But if you can you will be happy to know that the show requires no particular order of viewing. To say that “continuity” is a word the creators do not hold in high esteem would be quite the understatement.
On a similarly Adult Swim-themed note, I am very excited about the second season of The Venture Bros. starting in June. This show is the best of the Adult Swim original comedies. Frankly, I’d like to know when the hell the season one DVD is coming out. But the promise of new episodes is certainly a sweeter fruit. Consider this another endorsement; if you have On-Demand you should check out whatever episode is up there. It’s free, so really, what’s your excuse? Huh?
The show plays off of action-adventure cartoons from the 70s, most obviously Johnny Quest. These same shows became familiar to kids growing up in the 80s (like me) through USA’s Cartoon Express. I would imagine kids who grew up in the 90s would have gotten to know them during the days before Cartoon Network had much original programming to offer. What really makes Venture Bros. good is that it’s a parody, not just reference-fest comedy. It’s akin to the old Tick animated series (with which it shares some creators); it plays spectacularly off the silliness inherent in the genre it’s parodying.
As for the legal issues that have kept the aforementioned Tick series from being released on dvd, I’ll just say that it breaks my heart daily.