A Luddite Diversion

One would think just by publishing a blog with the casual graphic adornment, one should be relatively au currant avec les choses cool. Alas, life as we know, is not fair.

A particularly hard earned lesson. We must confess. We are self made victims. We open our veins to the obscenely predatory industries that rely on feasting from these most valued of bipeds — the stupid, dependable, grazable “early adopter”. Our blood is the extortionist prices they charge to get the latest and greatest which everyone knows is a sham, a fantasy. We can not in good faith blame industry. For years, the Stiftung willingly stood up and opened the veins to most big fanged companies in the world. Did we get entranced by ego-seducing marketing? A little, perhaps. Did that mean we needed it for low self esteem and bragging rights? We’re not the introspective kind so we’ll leave that to you to decide. Do we just need to play with toys? Without doubt. So now the bunker is filled with antiques. (As perhaps your abode is as well.) Mountains of junk.

We finally called a halt to this madness. We’re better now. Perhaps age has something to do with it. The velocity of life changes.

We knew without doubt almost 10 years ago we reached the point of insanity paying $100 a month in cell phone plans for Internet usage that displayed a web page in about 2 decades (this was way way way way long before the iPhones or the trinkets on the market today). In any event, for us the final lesson was our indulgence in a then state-of-the-art home theater (HD TV, 5.1 high audiophile speakers, $1,000 unified remote that served cappuccino — you get the picture). Now? A plastic parthenon. Any of Pat Buchanan’s dreaded infiltrators covertly shopping at Costco would mock it in a language he could not understand. So we simply said “No mas.“; to hell with it. No more latest trends. Not totally, but in general. Not quite “hey you kids get off of my lawn” but headed in that direction. Meanwhile, the Kool Kids said, yo Leo, you need to get on board with Twitter; we demurred. And so on with the next one.

One trend we have watched notwithstanding is how we can all circumvent the telcos, cable and satellite companies dictating to us what we watch when we watch (or charging outrageous fees for simple Linux boxes with a hard drive calling them DVRs). For those of us old enough to remember the dawn of the computer industry, the stock phrase then (and still now in many ways) was “There is nothing dumber than a telephone company.” NetFlix didn’t do it for us because of the whole U.S. post office angle. Talk about re-arranging deck chairs.

Still, more and more movies and television shows are being rented or purchased online. So tonight, temporarily abandoning our rule (actually more of a guideline) to avoid technological trendism, we decided to download and rent a movie off the Internet. We rationalized it as an experiment. And we are so bored and tired with the physical. Back when Negroponte (not the war criminal and bureaucratic stooge but the MIT professor) wrote in 1995 about Being Digital, the tantalizing prospect of a bit-based option seemed so close. 12 years in historical terms is not a long time. Yet what an eternity when on the slow path.

We downloaded “Charlie Wilson’s War”. We chose it because we had mixed feelings when it came out. Sure, it was based on true events. But the actual events are far more complicated and nuanced for a Hollywood flick. And we doubted Aaron Sorkin on his most tripped vision quests could capture it all. The advertising seemed precious — much like the tech stuff mentioned above. But we caved tonite.

The download experience is painless. About 1 hour for the entire movie to arrive. 24 hours to watch it. On a good computer monitor (insert your specs here but avoid entanglement above) the picture quality is enjoyable. Under $4. No parking. No trips to the mall or even the mailbox. Does it have digital rights management? Sure. Would it be nice to rent this and keep it as long as we wanted? Absolutely. Would one do this for a spectacle event like “Iron Man” or the like? Probably not. But overall, the Stiftung has crawled out from under the Bunker and blinks in the sun. Technology continues on and not all of it is rapacious, gratuitous and contemptuous of its own audience. These krazy kids are on to something. But then you probably already knew that.

Oh, the movie? What a wonderful entertainment. Even when inaccurate for dramatic purposes. Of the cast, Hanks is a bit too understated to play Charlie Wilson correctly (his display of cowboy boots not quite enough to convey the true rogue-ish charm — although the scenes on the Hill are pitch-pitch perfect). Julia Roberts as a whiplash Texan born again socialite with a weakness for young men — stunning. Hoffman also is terrific. That Milt Beardon advised Director Nichols added that granular eye for detail that the Stiftung enjoyed so much. And what a reminder of how this country used to be, before the Taliban took over here and then the Christian Socialism of the Warlord. America used to be fun.

After watching this movie we purchased a TV series as well. Not bad for never leaving the office.


  1. Comment says

    OT – Comment is very saddened by the death of Tim Russert. We admired him in so many ways. We had some fun at his expense here, but that was because he matter – He was condequential. He was very talented and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  2. Comment says

    Gordon Brown’s UK is one with the clock ticking – The Conservative Op Cameron represents the same vague CHANGE as Obama – Cameron is certainly not a Thatherite or a Cheneyitie 0 It must have annoyed some GOPers that Cameron had Gore’s (overrated, imo) movie featured at his convention. Also – Conrad’s Speccie pal Boris Johnson is well within the CHANGE coalition. Bottomline – This so-called Anglo coaltion the neocons “prayed and preyed” over wants out of Iraq.
    What does this have to do with Tinker Tailor? Aside from the fact that Cornwall loathes Bush, we don’t really know. But it means something.

  3. inquire says

    I hate to burst your bubble, rain on your parade, or (intentionally) miss the point of your musings, but umm, heard of a little thing called bittorrent? All that’s required is a modest PC, a reasonable internet connection, and some free software and the entire digital world is your (pillaged) oyster.

    I as well abandoned my early adopter fever I caught for a few years when disposable income was plentiful (for an 18 year old). For instance, I pre-ordered and collected on launch day 2000 the original Xbox, overpaying by leaps and bounds. But I learned my lesson, and aside from the occasional computer upgrade, my purchases have been relatively modest (not least due to the imposed poverty of continuing higher education).

    As much as I would like to compensate certain organizations who produce the sublime work I often enjoy on my PC, it’s simply not a financial option – but bittorrent is well within my budget. I may not be paying the true artists who are rightfully deserving of my cash, but equally I am robbing the barons who distribute the types of movies you describe that I also occasionally indulge in.

    In short, the question is, if this was such a morally painful exercise, why not just grab the damn content from the ubiquitous P2P networks, wash your hands of the whole thing and enjoy the reams of content otherwise unattainable?

  4. Comment says

    You are correct – and you articulate what we wee commenters were trying, ney failing, to articulate. There was an aesthetic to that UK decline that was hard to express. Btw, Not to press Larry Johnson because we wanted to drop that topic, but he just came up again on CNN as an HRC acolytlye by someone in defense of McCaine. Once again, we find it amusing that that that lowly rightest burper has managed to finagle himself into such a position

    Blair as poodle? It will be tough to make that new reality as good as the past. Tough – It is different. The UK is simultaneously wealthier but less important (imperial-wise) – Dramatically, that is against common understanding. But it is true.
    But it is also true that the British Empire rules large in the imagination of McCain and the ideologues – Plus it inspires much of what much of the liberal media thinks.

    Little commented upon is McCain’s casual dismissal of the US mil-base presence around the world – There is cultural significance to this yet untapped. He thinks it is unimportant that we have bases hither and thither, so long as there is no easily measurable daily body count.
    Maybe Tinker Tailer can work off that.

  5. DrLeoStrauss says

    Tinker Tailor was filmed during the nadir of British post colonial malaise. The entire city, sky and atmosphere in London and Oxford were looming character actors.

    Those actors just aren’t there in a post Thatcherite England, let alone post Major/Blair-ist Third Way nonsense UK.

    The series works for us precisely because it is flawed. Now, if they updated it and changed the name for a new work reflecting Brits disgusted with Blair the Poodle and the Warlord, that might be something worth watching (and disquieting in its all too real analog to reality).

  6. Comment says

    re Charlie Black – all the more reason to go after him for the Obama people – Now that Eric Holder is under attack. Hopefully Obama will learn a valuable lesson and extricate himself from any Clintonian scandal taint now. Amazing display of arrogance for Holder to not realize his Marc Rich problem just disappeared down the memory hole. Btw – no one would think Jim Johnson is related to Larry Johnson.

  7. Comment says

    Uncle Pat is in fine form tonight on a panel with his alleged black illegitimate daughter Tanya Acker.

  8. Comment says

    Last Johnson comment – His recent elevation in publicity is due to the convenience of Dems to blame him for Whitey. He probably is not the mastermind or ringleader behind such glorious oppo – But it’s always useful to be able to say “x” is the source of “y.”

    We think Obama’s people would be wise to push harder on Charlie Black – Call him a lobbyist for a cannibal. Name Dave Brooks as the source for that (he’ll freak) and presto – You have an instant sound bite describing Charlie and McCain dining out with Savimbi. It always gets a cheap laugh.

  9. Comment says

    The original Tinker Tailor has some imperfections we noticed on second and third viewing – The first time we saw we were to rivited and had the book on our mind.
    Tailor of Panama was Ok – What was the last one – In Africa? It was ok.
    Btw – Doc. Do you recomments PS3 or Xbox?

  10. Comment says

    re The new Smiley will be ripped with muscles and marketable gadgets – Hope not – London has changed quite a bit since then

    re Larry Johnson – You mean you wouldn’t say pick up a copy of his correspondence if you saw a bound edition in bin at Second Story? Or maybe you wouldn’t bother setting your VCR/DVR if you heard he would be speaking on c-span, lecturing on world affairs or the art of espionage?

    J/K – Johnson will never make it big time – He is not as bright as Tweety (21 honorary degress prove Tweety is brilliant) – Johnson is too scrufluous , but there is something funny about his mediocrity meriting continuous controversy. And his angry – indiscreet replies. He is overexposed now and would be wise to not engage in debate with the smarter liberal pundits who used to find him useful.
    He lashed out with a big “f+++ y+++” when Reason exposed his role re Whitey. Smiley would not approve.

  11. DrLeoStrauss says

    I confess to be puzzled why Larry Johnson’s opinion on anything other than he “knew Valerie Plame and blah blah blah” merits much attention. But then Fareed has his own weekly show on CNN. So who really has the last laught and who in the ends to be an ankle biter?

    There is a sublime art to self promotion, and that is boldly pushing past the barrier where conscience and self doubt/introspection might limit a lesser person. SImply refuse to be a force. Tweety’s career in emblematic of that. And many lesser lights who shine in the corners of the blogosphere.

    Perhaps the Bunker needs to hire a PR agent.

  12. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Tinker, Tailor, hard to imagine a better cast or recapturing of 1970s fading England and its Old Guard. Does Le Carre/David Cornwell really need the money that badly?

    ‘George Smiley and the Tradecraft of Doom’, now in theaters, brought to you by Burger King. ‘Our Tomatos Are Washed !’

  13. Comment says

    OT – We see Maureen Dowd’s Colleen Smile has turned to a frown of sorts – She has this ridiculously transparent column projecting her own loathing of Michelle Obama (exacerbated by accidentally mistaking another black woman for Michelle and then having to lie about it) onto the GOP. She pretends to endorse Michelle in the column while giving the URL of ghastly rightist sites to do the dirty work.
    Let’s face it – MoDo is the same as Larry Johnson – She has every right to loath Michelle. But let’s not be fooled.

  14. Anon says

    We’re glad PL and some others noticed this – This was a very deep moment for McCain and we recall the look in his eyes when he enthused that he would never surrender – It’s not clear, IMO, that McCain really knew what even he meant by that – He was partly, in his mind, talking about Vietnam and/or a general worldview – He was alluding to his Salter vision of himself. Basically he thinks just staying and killing equals winning and leaving means losing.
    The Dems have to figure a way to lampoon this view of the world.

  15. Comment says

    Leo – Tinker Tailor movie in the works – Can it work without Guiness as Smiley? How about Larry Johnson in the role? jk

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