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.