lovehate: The Great Throttlewall of Canada

“Madness is badness of spirit, when one seeks profit from all sources” - Aristotle

For the past week the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission has been listening to ISPs press for the ability to regulate internet bandwidth based on their ability to soak every last penny from end users/customers across Canada. While I understand that the minutae of such hearings in an Ottawa committee room may not be of tremendous interest to anyone outside of Canada then I would urge you to reconsider. These considerations are not just national because the money that is backing much of the anti-net neutrality debate is coming from multi-national music and film conglomorates that don't only seek to enact such restrictions in Canada, but world-wide.

The end run of film and music lobby groups is in no small part responsible for a press to throttle the internet. If ISPs are allowed to eliminate your computer's throughput because you're downloading a video or music file using a bit torrent protocol, the hope, on the part of the studios is that you'll eventually stop doing it. But what about legal files shared through bit torrent technology? If I had a CD or independent film to offer up for free (or pay-what-you-want), the bit torrent protocol would likely be the only way I could afford to pursue such a practice, yet ISPs and studios want to shut it all down.

If there's one thing I've learned over more than 20 years of 300 baud dialups to BBSs to highspeed surfing through social networks, recommendation engines, and news aggregators, it's that the net is REALLY good at self-regulating. I'm not denying the illegal activities that go on with file-sharing, but where were all of these lawsuits against people making mixtapes 25 years ago?

Data are clusters of ones and zeros having no more or less intrinsic value than an ascii text string. To assume by the method which I choose to acquire data, that somehow it's automatically illegal, is idiotic. It analogous to saying that, because speed boats are used more often than canoes to smuggle cocaine, anyone who uses a speedboat can go no faster than those in the canoe or they must be cocaine smugglers.

I pay for high speed internet. Let's repeat that: I PAY FOR HIGH SPEED INTERNET!

I don't pay for high speed web page surfing or Youtube watching or email sending or podcast listening. I pay for bandwidth. I pay the same amount as anyone else pays with my provider. They have every right to use their bandwidth to its fullest potential. To imply that my downloading habits adversely affect someone who is choosing to use even less doesn't make sense. My basic cable and telephone subscription packages are a flat rate no matter how much I use them. Does this mean that if I watch less television, I should get a rebate? Should get a cut rate telephone bill if make only half the calls that my neighbour does while on the same package? To sell an upload/download speed and then throttle back the advertised speed I purchased, without telling me when or why, is an unfair business practice that is probably actionable... though I am far too lazy to hire a lawyer.

To put it in a completely exaggerated way, ISPs are participating in their own form of Neo-McCarthyism. It's like the great "Red" scare: "Have you downloaded or watched, or have you consorted with anyone who has downloaded an illegal copy of a Harry Potter film?" If we allow ISPs and media conglomorates decide that it's okay to punish those who use a TYPE of program they don't like, what's next: The Great Throttlewall of Canada?

Fight for your right to an open internet. And if anyone has the gumption to start up a class-action lawsuit for ISPs throttling my bandwidth without telling me, I'll sign up.

lovehate: Hollywood's Canon Fodder

I hesitate to create a lovehate about the state of ideas in Hollywood, as the concept of derivative plot lines and characters has, it itself, become derivative. I'm sure as far back as silent film, people have been talking about the overabundant repetition and hackneyed ideas. When the legendary silent film "The Great Train Robbery" was such a success in 1903, it didn't take long for the "Little Train Robbery" (1905) to be made with a bunch of exploited children.

So I do understand the irony in the fact that whining about lost creativity is an artistic constant and hardly news-worthy. I only bring it up at this time because, in looking over the next few months of films that will likely challenge records at the box office, there's precious little originality that isn't a sequel, reworking, or retelling of an existing franchise or historical success. And I guess what really bothers me is the hundreds of millions being spent on precious few derivative blockbusters while anything independent or original has to scrape by with a few hundred thousand. The yearly Oscar for best original screenplay is being reduced to precious few to choose from.

Starting with Wolverine on May 1st, while I certainly don't begrudge the makers extending the Marvel brand a bit further with what is likely the most popular character of the X-men franchise. The fact that this film will capture the Comicon crowd is not lost on me, yet does take the place of at least a few original screenplays and character sets that should see the light of day.

I've always loved Star Trek, and I'm sure I will like the May 8th release, but was it really necessary to rework the original characters? The history established by the past television series and films cannot help but paint this story into a corner. We know which characters cannot die because they are around decades later. Where's the original Sci-Fi these days?

And then let's run the summer blockbuster list:

Angels and Demons - Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code prequel which is two years too late in terms of maintaining the wave of the series original popularity, but not like we'll look for a new alternative to film or anything.

Terminator Salvation - Yet another sequel with Christian Bale playing a dark and brooding anti-hero. Suffers, again, from the same plot issues as Star Trek, being stuck into an existing mythology.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - Ben Stiller + sequel = banal.

Land of the Lost - While I know I'm deriding remakes, I really looked forward to this one until I heard Will Ferrell was attached. Now it becomes a de facto sequel of every other movie Will Ferrell has ever made.

The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 - Again, LOVED the original. Isn't there another screenwriter out there who can write a train heist film? You couldn't do much worse than Money Train.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen -  Is this the one where Jar Jar and Michael Caine fight a robot shark from a future dystopian world? I suppose to ask for another writer to come up with an original story about trucks that turn into intelligent robots would be too infringing... how 'bout next time we go with Voltron instead?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - In a genre where originality should be most abundant, we have to sit through yet another Ice Age... when does it all melt? All I can do is thank Pixar for UP at the end of May. I don't have much idea what it's about - and that's a very good thing.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Hasn't Harry got a nice job as a clerk in a central London office by now? Aren't the characters on crack benders somewhere? I think we should conscript Jon Lithgow and create a Harry Potter and the Hendersons combined sequel.

All these along with new iterations of G.I. Joe, Final Destination (not so final was it?) and Halloween makes me wish for a time like the 70s when, for all of the historical nostalgia about a "golden era" of directors and films, at least we had some original stories. But I guess that's when this 30 year-old funk that we're in now started.

I know that some of these films will be great, but it reminds me of the ominous parallels to the literary criticism of T.S. Eliot's canon. Essentially, there will be films that are part of the canon and those that aren't and those that are there were always desitined to be there and those not should not have expected more. How many of the sequels and remakes we watch over the next year will serve more as cannon fodder than find a place in the canon?