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Giants and Ants

By DranoK 420 in Op-Ed
Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 03:45:27 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

That other site has an article running about hardware copy protection. It's the standard fare singing the same old jazz about the evils of copy prevention. The article itself is actually very boring. In fact, this submission has nothing to do about hardware copy prevention. No -- I write now not of evil corporations but of giants and Ants.

Imagine the year is 1562. Imagine you and your friends are bored and have a bulging purse full of more wealth than you could hope to spend in one night. Your and your friends leave a pub just after noon, slightly intoxicated and thirsty for entertainment. Where do you go? For the sake of a simple presentation, lets assume you do not enjoy physical activities.

If your timing was right you could see a play, among other things. You could view a gallery of art, or listen to local music. What entertainment you eventually chose is largely irrelevant, however. The important thing to think about is who would be entertaining. The music, the plays -- it stands to reason much of this entertainment would be presented by locals for locals. There might be a touring troupe, but the far more common entertainment would be local.

Think of news publications and local bulletin boards. Think of what poetry people might read and what stories they would be told. Is the stuff we read in High School the only entertainment produced in this era? Of course not. Most of it has simply vanished, or was never known in the first place, created and absorbed by a local populace. A song might be written in a small village and sung for years at a local tavern, entertaining locals and visitors alike, but never be written down or even sung outside the town.

For the most part day-to-day entertainment was created by ants, people who were neither noteworthy nor important, ordinary people who each contributed a small bit to the entertainment of their peers.

It is now 2002. You and your friends are slightly stoned, just ate at a local Taco Bell and decide you need something to do. What entertainment is to be had? Again, for the sake of keeping this simple, you don't want to engage in any type of physical activity.

You could see a movie. You could watch TV. You could play Return to Castle Wolfenstein, or Dark Age of Camelot, or any number of other computer games. You could rent a PS2 and play games as well. This list could easily expand over several more paragraphs, but the actual entertainment you choose here is irrelevant. The important thing is who created the entertainment.

Not ants; giants.

Large corporations now create the entertainment we consume each day. No longer is entertaining a few people acceptable -- only when we can claim millions of people have viewed our creation is it deemed a success. We look down on the films people drudgingly attempt to make in their backyards and play on community access television. We ignore the games on freshmeat because they are simple and trivial and lack the extravagant eye candy we have grown to expect. We no longer accept the entertainment produced by ants.

We are in love with giants. The giants of Hollywood, the giants of television, the giants of Playstation and computer games. The giants whom we pay to entertain us.

Thus we return to the concept that sparked this entire discussion -- the article on copy prevention. As long as there is a strong demand for entertainment produced by giants, giants will work tirelessly toward the goal of limiting supply and thus maximizing their profits. You can't ask a corporation to reduce their profit any more than you can ask a dog to eat its own legs. And yes, I am aware that there are arguments which state giants don't lose profit from piracy, but the giants themselves think they do and their shareholders believe this as well, thus wether or not the giants are actually losing money is irrelevant.

The only real method of stopping coerced copy control and the elimination of fair-use rights is to cease the demand for giant-produced entertainment and remember that us lowly ants can produce as well.


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Giants and Ants | 48 comments (47 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Yeah, you're right, us lowly ants can produce BUT, (3.40 / 5) (#1)
by terpy on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 07:32:40 PM EST

I like a good game console, and I threw down my money because (being the ant that I am) I couldn't build one, or find any local ants that could either. (OK, I'm aware of mame, yadda yadda) You're right, but your article seems more of a statement with no possible resolution than anything else.

<joh3n> BUKKAKE: the final frontier
<joh3n> these are the stories of the starship: jizziprize

True enough... (3.60 / 5) (#4)
by DranoK 420 on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 07:40:20 PM EST

Giant-produced entertainment is ATM more fun. But I didn't even try to provide a real solution. This is one of those 'Aw Fuck' type deals.

But it's also futile to think giants will stop pushing for content controls.

Solution? It takes someone smarter than me to think of one I guess...


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.

[ Parent ]
It's simple enough, but, paradoxically, hard. (4.00 / 3) (#12)
by regeya on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 10:35:41 PM EST

And both are related to each other. If you have the skills, produce.

It's easy if you try (apologies to the Lennon estate) but quite frankly, as many Open and Free software producers can tell you, it's never good enough, and outlets such as kuro5hin.org become venues for amateur journalists to editorialize about amateur software production. So many are dissatisfied with non-professional production, but so few are willing to contribute anything, be it writing, music, software, what have you. People don't just want fame (or net.fame); they really think their half-assed efforts (c'mon, I know you've heard some big-label pop offerings) are worth thousands, millions even.

The solution? Turn people off of watching TV, listening to radio, etc. and on to other forms of entertainment. But heck, I've tried to help get people off the Redmond crackpipe for years, and all people seem to want to do is complain that the Free crack we offer isn't the same as the Redmond crack. ;-)

I guarantee that if someone set up some way of trading Free games on, say, the X-Box or PS2, you'd see amateurish editorials complaining that the 2D scroller that some guy in Puxatawney wrote isn't as pretty as the latest mediocre 3D offering from some major software house. Heck, we see how successful small-label bands are, which is to say, they aren't. Unknown artists don't get that way by being popular, either.

Eh, I guess my comment turned into an "Aw, fuck" too, combined with an "I hate dumb people" sprinkling with a smidgen of "How do dumb people land jobs writing editorial columns" just to be safe. ;-)

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

pc alternatives (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by alprazolam on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 01:46:07 PM EST

You could download codemonkey_uk's entropy or play a mud/mush or something.

[ Parent ]
Local Currencies to Support Local Arts (4.77 / 9) (#2)
by snowlion on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 07:35:41 PM EST

Have you ever read about Ithaca HOURs?

Ithaca is a town in New York state that decided to produce their own local currency. It really helped out local business a lot. Each Ithaca "dollar" is equivelent to either 1 hour of work, OR $10.00. People in the local area register in the community book the things that they are willing to do or teach. Upon registering, they get an "Ithaca Dollar", which they can then give to another registered backer for an hour of work. Other people can call them up and ask them to teach their skill or do their thing.

Visitors come and are interested in the services; They pay $10.00 for an Ithaca HOUR. There are grocery stores, landlords, and even some local banks that accept Ithaca HOURs. When they do, they are effectively paying $10.00/hour for labor. Also, the currency is local and supports the local economy.

When unemployment hits a region hard, there is a shortage of dollars. However, many people are quite willing to work, and quite capable of working. The Ithaca HOURs system allows them to work. It sounds like magic, but think yourself: If you had an extremely limited dollar budget, and had extra time that you had trouble making US dollars with, and could really use some of the babysitting services in the community book, would you be willing to help teach other people how to play the guitar? Other people might not be willing to pay you money to play the guitar (because- we're ALL strapped for cash), but they might be willing to babysit the baby.

I spent a whole night reading alternative economy web sites; It was really interesting. I think it's a great idea.

Map Your Thoughts
Just for the record (4.85 / 7) (#14)
by UncleMikey on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 11:48:36 PM EST

Ithaca is a town in New York state that decided to produce their own local currency

Ithaca Hours were not the creation of the City or Town of Ithaca governments (don't ask about New York's bizarre political structures). They were a private effort to set up a kind of local barter system. They were not universally accepted or respected. I myself always thought the idea was nifty, but never actually participated.

It's the sort of thing that works in a town like Ithaca, which is by and large several miles left of centre, and is the only meaningful cultural centre for an hour in any direction (at best), mostly thanks to the presence of Cornell University and Ithaca College. In a setting like that, a town with a population of maybe 50,000 of whom 15,000 are highly intelligent undergraduate students, another 15,000 highly intelligent grad students or professors, in the middle of nowhere, you have two choices for entertainment: import it, or learn how to make it yourself. It's the perfect setting for artists who are more interested in having an audience *tonight* whether or not they'll get a record deal some day. Some damned good stuff comes out of that environment that never gets heard anywhere else.

Honk if you've ever heard of Blindman's Holiday, for example...

Uncle Mikey, Cornell '91
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

The technical name... (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by yonasa on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 08:03:16 AM EST

... is the "Local Exchange Trading System", or LETS. The idea has become popular as a means of local economic regeneration, since the unemployed (or underemployed) have time, but no money. Interestingly, the system tends to lead to a "surplus" of currency as people tend to do more than they actually claim back on their local currency - they save a lot of what they "earn" - a buildup of good will, if you like. The system also fosters a "sense of community" which, if you know about local economic regeneration, is currently The In Thing (tm).

Of course, there are many, many problems with it, not least of which is the trust needed (would you really let an unemployed, unqualified, 30 / 40 year old stranger babysit? Give you a massage? Clean up your house?) and the lack of basic consumer protection (you didn't spend no money to get those services, so what are you complaining about?). There'a also a problem of it being strictly a local system, and of it displacing equivalent activities in the "real" economy. There are others, but I think this is off topic enough as it is.


I wish I was more eloquent
[ Parent ]

LETS != Ithaca HOUR (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by snowlion on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 04:13:53 PM EST

I know about LETS, and it's quite different than the Ithaca HOUR system.

Go to transaction.net to learn about the differences.

Shortly, LETS does not feature a minimum exchange rate (and thus a minimum wage), and LETS runs without paper currency.

Other systems include ROCS and Time Dollars.

Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
I stand corrected... (none / 0) (#41)
by yonasa on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 05:30:05 PM EST

... although I'd still argue (incorrectly as it may be) that both fulfill the functions of a local, exchange (of services) based trading system, albeit in different ways. But that's just a last ditch attempt to salvage the remnants of my credibility :)


I wish I was more eloquent
[ Parent ]

Well thought out. (3.87 / 8) (#3)
by m0rzo on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 07:37:25 PM EST

I like your analogy and reasoning. I agree with you to the greater extent, although I would say that the only reason mass marketing of music wasn't happening in the 1500's was because they didn't possess the knowledge or ability.

Until the Renaissance period Monks were still writing books out by hand, it was only with the arrival of the printing press that things actually changed. If the gramophone had been around in the 1500s and we knew as much as we know about the world now, then I'm sure everyone would have been bopping to either Green sleeves or "I swallowed a rotten potato" by Jim the Peasant.

We live in this consumer society now though, where culture isn't invented by the people but by this de facto global government of corporations. It's a pseudo-culture, air-brushed nicely to embody all that is good, all that is pure. (sic)

I don't think the demand for mass-produced entertainment shows any sign yet of crashing. MTV et al have succeeded in producing generations of simplified kids who are more than happy to dip their fingers in their pockets for, what in short, is junk. O-Town I love you.
My last sig was just plain offensive.

How many would do it? (3.77 / 9) (#6)
by chipuni on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 07:56:26 PM EST

There are two halves of the article, which you seem to link together. I disagree with both of them.

The larger the potential market, the more money that can be spent in creating something for that market. Therefore, the higher the (perceived) quality of the performance.

How many people would settle for mediocrity, when you can hear excellence? How many people choose a song created by one person in her spare time, when professional studio musicians, professional composers, and electronically-augmented singers can be brought together? Compare the different number of sales between N-Sync and a folk singer playing at a coffee shop.

Nonetheless, you're asking people to choose the local folk singer over the corporate-sponsored megastar.

I also disagree with your other half of your story: You claim that, because they are giants, they try to limit supply to maximize their profits. I say that the majority of content-providers do the same thing.

For example, I help to run a furry convention where many artists sell their work. None of them make more than a few thousand dollars at any convention, but they are as possessive of their work as any corporation.

The art show (where they display and sell their best works) is guarded around the clock or locked down; no cameras are allowed in there.

In short, I believe that:

  • Extremely few people will choose to go back to the 1562 way, even if it would lessen copy prevention schemes.
  • Even one-person creators have as much of an interest in copy prevention as the Big Guys. They just have fewer resources to do it.

Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.
Read carefully please (1.57 / 7) (#8)
by DranoK 420 on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 08:38:13 PM EST

Never did I say people should go back to the way it was. I am simply stating that copy-control mechanisms are being created because of the perceived need for entertainment.

I wouldn't give up my wolfenstein and star trek any more than the next guy would. But as long as I demand this entertainment the giants will continue to try to restrict my access to it. They don't like me downloading voyager from the web.

I rated your comment lowly because of this misunderstanding you had toward my intent. Once again proving that assuming makes an ass out of u.


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.

[ Parent ]
Tread carefully, please (3.36 / 11) (#11)
by fluffy grue on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 10:32:46 PM EST

As the author of this article, it is likely that you wrote the article in order to convey something meaningful to its readers. As chipuni apparently didn't get the meaning of what you were trying to say, either you did a poor job of conveying your point or you did a poor job of understanding how his point related to your article.

I rated you lowly because you had the audacity to blame the reader for misunderstanding what you said, and felt the need to bring this to attention.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

I disagree with your disagreement... (3.60 / 5) (#20)
by yonasa on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 07:44:44 AM EST

... because there isn't anything here that is to be agreed or disagreed with. Yes, N'Sync may make more money, but are they really the best example of "excellence", of the millions spent on them? Similar question applies to the dozens of manufactured pop bands out there. Sales is no indication of quality, nor is amount spent on production (Waterworld, anyone?). Now, people may happen to be entertained by N'Sync more than the local folk singer, but that's neither here nor there. I think the article's point was to remind those out there who are sick of the corporate sponsored Plastic Pop People that alternatives do exist. Just because the local folk singer doesn't have a billion dollar advertising / production backing doesn't mean he / she should be automatically overlooked. But also, just because you're attending the local play doesn't mean you shouldn't watch Trek on TV or Big Hit Smash Movie at the cinema.

To each their own, just don't be fooled by the packaging alone. Crap wrapped in shiny cellophane is still crap, but gold can come wrapped in old newspapers and still shine (and, obviously, vice versa).

As for copyright, that's a whole different thing, and the issue becomes more confused and much more personal (AFAIK) when irate furrys are involved....


I wish I was more eloquent
[ Parent ]

Excellent analysis, +1 FP (4.50 / 12) (#7)
by localroger on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 08:36:40 PM EST

I would disagree with the growing rumble that Giant-produced works are inevitably of higher quality. It's true that a Giant-sized collaboration can produce astonishing works beyond the capability of ordinary individuals; but those same collaborations can produce astonishing failures like Battlefield Earth.

As I write this one of the most popular songs in the country, near the top of the charts, is "Only Time" by Enya. This is a mostly a capella tune well within the creative capacities of many RenFair vocalists; it's even in their style. What Enya has, and the RenFair folks don't, is exposure and distribution.

Some astonishingly good movies have been done on shoestring budgets -- Clerks, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and Blue Velvet pop into mind. David Lynch tanked with the awful Dune when he had millions of dollars to spend and then produced the most notorious and challenging film of the decade on a B budget.

Most novels are individual efforts regardless of how famous they become; while it's true that many more people think they can write than actually can, it's become all but impossible for Joe Nobody to get a novel read by someone who can actually publish it. Meanwhile empty crap (Brett Easton Ellis, anybody?) gets published because the author knows the publisher's son.

The video game as art production in the style of a movie is a new phenomenon. Only in the last few years have the hardware bottlenecks widened enough to give non-technical art people the latitude they need to act arty. Before that game design was driven by hardware. Id Software didn't dominate the industry for five years because of their art direction; they did so because they had blazingly efficient graphic routines. The kid who wrote Duke Nukem 3D, whose name escapes me, hacked a 3D FP-shooter on his own and made his intro into the industry with it.

Thing is, these new games don't play like the old ones. There is a Zen-like simplicity to games like Asteroids, Battlezone, or Pac-Man which is not found in movie-like FP shootemups. Obviously we don't want visible pixels if they aren't necessary but surely there is a place for better-rendered and more-clever games of skill which don't depend on 24-frame animation to make their point. Remember Tetris?

The problem isn't that Giants make better content than Ants. It's that Giants build the highways over which this content comes to us -- the communication and distribution channels. They get to set the tolls and decide who can travel on those highways.

There is hope, however. Surely I am not the only one who hangs out at places like K5 precisely because they are the beginning of an antidote to Giant culture...

I can haz blog!

a more recent example (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by kubalaa on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 05:45:56 AM EST

Italian for Beginners. I don't know what the exact budget was, but it was filmed under Dogme 951 so it could have been made by just about anyone in theory. People need to get it through their heads that style and substance are totally orthogonal (as are wealth/happiness, intelligence/wisdom, etc.)

1. Pity their website doesn't conform to the same austerity as their films.

[ Parent ]

Hmmm...slightly misleading (3.20 / 5) (#9)
by brotherhayashi on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 09:55:26 PM EST

I'm not sure whether I agree with your analysis. In both the Renaissance, a lot of content was produced by ants funded by giants. Up until the Renaissance, content was produced and preserved by individuals (monks, artistans, etc.) supported by the Church. With the dawn of the Renaissance, private patrons (the Medici's, for example) began to support artists and the art world began to secularize. Even after the Renaissance, however, many works of art were still funded by and produced for patrons. The numerous references to witchcraft in _Macbeth_ were put there to suck up to James I of England; IIRC, he still didn't like the play much :-).

On a similar note, a lot of modern work has been produced by ants with little giant involvement; the article says nothing about modern fiction. Yes, some of it is bland and formulaic, but a lot of good stuff is created by (relatively) independent writers. Computer games (at least for the PC; for game systems, where the console maker has to put a stamp of approval on the game, the situation is perhaps different) can be produced by small houses: witness id Software. Perhaps our standards are simply a bit higher because of increased exposure to the really good stuff early on.

Ayn Rand would be rolling in her grave. (1.81 / 11) (#10)
by FcD on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 10:27:15 PM EST

You should read Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.

And if you can't afford the $7.50 rental fee for a PS2 game, why not lay off the drugs? You would be surprised at how much discretionary income you'd save...and how much more you could earn.

preach on (4.14 / 7) (#13)
by regeya on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 10:55:09 PM EST


Now personally, I happen to like some of the Free and Open games floating around, but mainly because they give me a nostalgic feeling. I liked Penguin Command well enough to hand over some graphics to the author (nothing big, just the opening screen) but that's about my only contribution to any free project, ever. *sigh* I'm such a bum.

I know people who're totally into the gaming-console scene, and when I try to play along with 'em, I get bored. There's not really any real innovation going on in the commercial world, either. Yeah, the Free and Open people get trashed for rehashing 80's and 90's games, but sheesh, console games don't have any oomph at all.

Same for most mass-consumption music, and Gawd, if TV isn't the opiate of the masses, I don't know what is. At least if I sit in front of a TV, I don't have to think. ;-)

Hell, I don't know what to do, either, to tell you the truth. I've been toying with the idea of producing something that's bound to be wildly unpopular: an actual text adventure game. No, not a MUD. Damn it, I'm sick of multiplayer stuff. I'm talking about an actual, honest-to-goodness story written from beginning to end, without any graphics or sound support. Just your damned imagination. I know it sounds corny and outdated, but I'm just some guy who, in his mid-20's, is already a grumpy old man. ;-)

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

Want some help on that? (3.75 / 4) (#16)
by localroger on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 12:49:54 AM EST

I'm not as old or grumpy as some people around here, but I actually remember the era when those games were the only games around.

I also think there's room to develop new 2D games. MAME be damned, the old games were great but we should be making new games that are better. And if you've played the old games you know they don't play like the new ones. There's a purity of focus there you don't get in a ten-weapon hundred-monster X-level shooter. You can master the controls of a game like Spacewar or Asteroids or Battlezone in a few moments, but spend months or years honing your technique. I don't see that in the new games. Where has that paradigm gone?

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Creativity (4.33 / 3) (#22)
by ucblockhead on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 11:24:34 AM EST

There's such a lack of creativity in today's games. I remember going to the arcade as a kid, and watching them wheel in a new machine meant that a whole new experience with completely new gameplay was in store for me. I remember when they wheeled in "Tempest" and "Robotron" and "Missile Command". Each one of those was unique.

Today, every game is version V of something copied from something else that was inspired by something different. "Simcity in a carribean setting". "Doom with really big maps". "Diablo in Japan". That's what goes for original gameplay these days.

We're so enamored with art direction that we've forgotten that a guy got the entire computing population addicted to little falling blocks.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

interactive fiction (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by dabadab on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 10:28:32 AM EST

Well, the text-only adventure is still alive, only it is called "interactive fiction" these days.
The scene is alive (the 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, held in 2001, had 52 entries), there are authoring tools - but it is not mainstram anymore (to use the OP's words, it is produced by ants nowadays, not giants)
Just make a google search for "interactive fiction" for more detail.
Real life is overrated.
[ Parent ]
The ant still has his place (4.33 / 6) (#15)
by ParadigmShift on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 12:25:04 AM EST

I don't know about you guys, but I enjoy going down to the local coffee house to listen to a poetry reading, or open mic night.
Simple things like these are the most enjoyable in my eyes.
I don't get out much to see movies. $9.50 a pop isn't worth it to see some of the tripe that is put out these days. I don't watch television either. I'm not trying to be some kind of 'against the man' rebel. I simply don't like what I see on tv. There's no real interaction.
My point is, the coffee houses are usually full. So are the libraries, and theatres(traditional, not cinematic). The "ant" hasn't lost his place in society. He's just been hiding in the corner, so that only the few who are interested can find him.
And really, that's what I like most about it. It's not something you see plastered on billboards or on television commercials. It's not shoved down our throats like the big movie of the week. And the beauty of is that the "ant" doesn't need that kind of exposure. People will come regardless. Why? The ant has something that big media could never. A face.

Entertainment... (4.16 / 6) (#17)
by xriso on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 02:48:01 AM EST

Do local stuff, if you truly care about this (merely wishing doesn't help, just so you know). It doesn't matter if the other 99% of the world is doing the popular.
  • Uninstall those games. Uninstall Windows since it's only good for the games anyway.
  • Don't rent a movie or see one in a theatre.
  • Sell that PS2 and its games.
The thing is, all this stuff is entertainment. In general people want the best they can get, without much regard to anything else. You could stop fitting that pattern. That, or the amateur entertainment could improve.

You could also concentrate less on entertaining your self. Entertainment is a very temporary pleaser. I can't recall any movie or game or such which resulted in me being happier for more than a day. Some computer games just turn the player into a zombie and aren't even fun. Just watch someone play a game like the sims -- that blank expression which shows that they have stopped thinking about anything but the game. Mouse clicking: Click ... click ... click ... yay. Pointless, pitiful, wasteful. If I were to give my resources away to help less fortunate people, it sure isn't entertaining, but at least I will achieve a long-lasting sense of happiness because I helped. It has occurred to me that I should be doing such things instead of, say, reading online forums or playing some computer game.

A day from now, if I were to look back in retrospect to the choices I made today, what would I really want to have happened? Sitting around on my butt playing computer is not high on the list. To stop obsessing about these short-term pleasures is a tremendous task. The alternatives may be uncomfortable or *gasp* no fun at the time. However, the end result is not an empty feeling. It seems to be of the highest-quality experiences that exist, and I don't need a giant to get it. The problem is thus: am I determined enough to be future-minded?
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

Not really (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by bugmaster on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 03:45:58 PM EST

Sitting around on my butt playing computer is not high on the list. To stop obsessing about these short-term pleasures is a tremendous task. The alternatives may be uncomfortable or *gasp* no fun at the time.
I think you might be overreacting just a bit. Obviously, too much of any kind of entertainment is bad. Ice cream will rot your teeth, and TV will rot your brain. However, "too much is bad" does not imply "none is the only option".

Recall that, in the original sense of the word, entertainment is something that, well, entertains you. If brainless sitcoms don't entertain you, don't watch them. No one is making you to... not yet, anyway. Now, yes, I agree that dedicating your life to helping others is a noble goal - however, I had many bad experiences with meeting people who take themselves so seriously they can't see past the end of their nose. Fundamentalist Christians, for example. It is quite healthy to unwind once in a while.

Furthermore, you say:

Entertainment is a very temporary pleaser.
But then you say
Some computer games just turn the player into a zombie and aren't even fun. Just watch someone play a game like the sims -- that blank expression which shows that they have stopped thinking about anything but the game.
First of all, that doesn't sound like a "temporary" pleaser to me. Second of all, just because the game is not fun for you to watch, doesn't mean it's not fun for the player to play. In fact, in your example, The Sims has achieved what few works of art and music are capable of: it immersed the player (viewer, listener) in its world. Now, I personally never liked The Sims, but I have played other games with the same effect. It takes some serious creative talent to create those games, and calling them "pointless, pitiful, wasteful" would be akin to calling painting, poetry or music pointless, pitiful and wasteful. After all, that landscape on the wall doesn't directly feed the needy, right ? Throw it away !
[ Parent ]
The Sims (4.00 / 3) (#28)
by pistols on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 04:09:28 PM EST

I remember overhearing a comment about The Sims when it first came out:

"Its a really fun game, until you realize what you're doing: leading an ordinary life."

I think that says something about the entertainment value of 'ordinary' life ;-)

[ Parent ]

Don't forget to support Indie game developers! (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by ClassicG on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 06:10:33 AM EST

Some of the best games I've played over the past year have come from small, independant game developers. Here'a a few:

Uplink, the best 'hacking' game since Neuromancer, hands down.

Then there's Roboforge, an awesome combination of a robotic lego set and an AI design lab, complete with online tournaments to test your robotic creations in.

<shameless self-plug>
Finally, check out one of my own creations: Five-Card Drop, one of the niftiest action/puzzle games you'll see.
</shameless self-plug>

Anybody else have some other indie games that they would like to spread the word about?

- ClassicG

EKS (home of Sherlock and Descartes Enigma) (none / 0) (#42)
by enry on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 07:16:26 PM EST

http://www.kaser.com/ Everett Kaser Systems does a bunch of logic games for Win* machines (yes, some run on win 3.1, they're that old), but still worth the money. Sherlock some with 65k puzzles, so it will be a while before you run out of puzzles. All the games have trial versions with 10-20 puzzles included, and the full version costs about $20.

[ Parent ]
I'm a Freak (3.50 / 4) (#23)
by Jebediah on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 12:20:00 PM EST

Most of my friends and people who know me think I'm weird. Why? It's because I don't watch much TV, watch movies, play the latest 3D shooter, and I don't use Windows. Maybe it's just me, but I would rather interact with my entertainment intelligently instead of passively consuming.

To extend the analogy... (3.33 / 3) (#25)
by bjlhct on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 03:12:13 PM EST

Yeah, I can just picture this:
There is a community of a ten million ants.
There are also 2 giants.
Each giant uses one hand to collect money from the ants who try to pass and the other to crank a contraption, which makes the entertainment the ants are looking for.
These contraptions are built by the ants, and bought by the giants.
Some disgruntled ants started building their own, and team up to crank it. As its success grows, it hires more ants to help...and ants start sneaking in, so the collective starts punishing them.
Now the collective realizes small groups produce more efficiently, and starts buying them from other ants...

Animal Farm.

So how do you solve the prisonner's dilemma?
Perhaps you could make ants crank or build to watch, but that would be just as limiting and bad. So perhaps the ants that cranked or build get trinkets. The better the other ants like what you cranked or built, and the more who see it, the more trinkets. Trinkets are worth getting additions to contraptions that you want. Thus the ants with popular creations get what they want, and there is no prisoner's dillemma.


Me, well, I've already thrown away my TV...leaving me much more time for more productive things-like K5.



[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
Holes in the analysis (4.75 / 4) (#26)
by tchaika on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 03:31:03 PM EST

If you go to a gallery now, notice how almost every freaking painting up until 1562 is a portrait of Madonna with Child (that, or the last supper, or similar theme). Those that aren't, are flattering pictures of rich, powerful powerful people (who commissioned them), or pictures/sculptures/etc of whatever they wanted. Even after this began to change, artistic subjects were still dictated by the whims of rich patrons.

And that almost all of the great music up until that point is either religiously themed or comissioned for some state occasion?

Freedom of artistic expression and the means to distribute ones' art are available to the greatest number of people now than at any point in history.

Besides which, if you live in a metropolis, start buying Time Out, get Village Voice or whatever it is in your city. You will find, your centuries-old tradition of local entertainment and touring troupes is probably thriving under your nose.

Hear Hear! (none / 0) (#48)
by nutate on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 03:41:42 PM EST

Just go out. I came from a small town, but now live in new york. Even in the small town, it seemed like the only entertainment I really remember was the local music scene. Where'd that come from? I dunno, but it wasn't from giants.

[ Parent ]

The great thing about ant-produced entertainment (4.40 / 5) (#29)
by Tatarigami on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 04:10:36 PM EST

... is the chance to participate. Some of the sites I keep going back to most often are the 'collaborative fiction' ones, where you have the chance to join in and take part in the effort. Not fan fiction (although I enjoy a good fic as much as the next pasty-white overweight fanboy) but the really original stuff based on an idea a small group of people cooked up between themselves and ran with.

Does anyone else find the internet has become the 'new TV' for you? Did you manage to wean yourself off the idiot box only to find yourself mindlessly browsing the same sites every day? Have you memorised the update schedule for your favourite blogs and webcomics, so you know when you can expect to find fresh content?

Must break cycle... must find participatory entertainment... must reverse trend of brain cells committing suicide through lack of use...

Or maybe not (4.00 / 3) (#30)
by dachshund on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 05:52:55 PM EST

You make a good case... But perhaps your decision to post it to a site like k5 is, by itself, an excellent counterargument. After all, what is k5 but a site run by and for ants?

My browsing habits certainly aren't representative of every American, but I spend a significant amount of time on the web. Not every site I visit is as ant-produced as k5, but on the whole, little of my time is spent with the giants.

What's sad about these ant-produced sites is not that they fail to garner readership. On the contrary, I would imagine that sites like slashdot and k5 have a higher readership than my local newspaper. But despite this, they get a fraction of the financial compensation. Many can't stay in business, despite the fact that they require few paid staff, and their content production costs are negligible.

So this begs the question. If ant-produced sites can get the readership, why can't they get the revenue? There are a lot of reasons, but it's hard to deny that the giant-friendly advertising industry's decisions are among them.

The Exception that proves the rule (4.50 / 2) (#32)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 06:20:04 PM EST

1. Look at where you have to go to get your information. It's not as readily available as Giant-produced work. In fact, you have to work to find the ants.

2. Entertainment, not information. DranoK's post is regarding the current state of entertainment, wheras your post is mostly regarding information.

3. Group-oriented. DranoK is speaking about "IRL" entertainment, that is, entertainment with other fleshies and blodies in the room. True, some entertainmen is available for many people IRL over the computer, but most of it is Giant produced

4. On revenue: 1-3 all apply -- but I think the real problem is the issue of ants playing in the giants world. Ant-produced work in the past didn't need money from other ants. Benevolent kings provided money for artists. Sure, they had to "do their time" painting the monarchs, but they could also produce art for the masses. Furthermore, see my culture of youth post.


[ Parent ]
I'll prove your rule... (2.50 / 2) (#34)
by vaalrus on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 11:01:20 PM EST

I cringe every time I read that phrase. Mostly, it is because the utterer is using it exactly wrong. In this phrase, it is to prove, as in proving grounds, as in "Test to destruction". Exceptions are not "Proof" of veracity, but proof of falsehood.
--------- All my bits are belong to me.
[ Parent ]
Prove this (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 11:52:18 PM EST

I'm sorry, but you're completely wrong. From alt.usage.english:
The common misconception (which you will find in several books, including the Dictionary of Misinformation) is that "proves" in this phrase means "tests". That is *not* the case, although "proof" *does* mean "test" in such locutions as "proving ground", "proofreader", "proof spirit", and "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

As MEU says, "the original legal sense" of the "the exception proves the rule" is as follows: "'Special leave is given for men to be out of barracks tonight till 11.0 p.m.'; 'The exception proves the rule' means that this special leave implies a rule requiring men, except when an exception is made, to be in earlier. The value of this in interpreting statutes is plain."

So the exceptional lengths to which dachshund has to go proves the rule (that ant-produced entertainment is either rare or hard to find), and I use it in the correct sense, whilst you do not.


[ Parent ]

Hmmm... (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by vaalrus on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 03:45:46 PM EST

I sit corrected... this bears some study. Given this strict usage, do you feel that most people are using this phrase properly? Here, you use it to point out the lengths to which dachshund has to go to. In my (admitantly personal) experience, the phrase is used to gloss over blatant contradictions of a given statement.
--------- All my bits are belong to me.
[ Parent ]
I have no idea (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by joecool12321 on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 05:24:49 PM EST

I first encountered the phrase only a short while ago, so I cannot comment on the general useage of the phrase. Obviously, it has fallacy potential. For example, if I say, "All men run faster than most women," and am then presented with a man who runs slower than most women, I must discard my proposition. The exception destroyed the rule, it did not prove it.

It seems like the phrase is most used in a colloqial conversation regarding so-called "rules of thumb". It is useful in a technical conversation, but only in the strict sense. I guess I can imagine its frequent mis-use.

I haven't really said anything, so I don't know why I posted something.


[ Parent ]
OT: "The Exception that proves the rule" (3.33 / 3) (#44)
by Gutza on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 07:26:59 PM EST

A fine read about this topic: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_201.html

I make this point as frequently as possible, doing my little part in sending this stupid proverb into oblivion. Please do your part too and at least stop using it! :-)

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]

Nope, Cecil agrees with me (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by joecool12321 on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:06:25 PM EST

Sorry, but I came across this when I was doing research on the phrase a few weeks ago. Actually, that's how I came across Straight Dope, and I've enjoyed reading many of his pieces.

I direct you, though, to the final posting. Hugh Miller, of Chicago, says basically what I said, and Cecil agrees with me. Cecil is in fact simply wrong when he says, "From the point of view of advancing the debate it's about one jump ahead of "yo mama," but it beats standing there with your mouth open."

I do, however, take his advice. He says, "Since there is not much chance of stamping these out en masse, we may as well resign ourselves to trying to boost the sensible interpretations and suppress the rest." I use it in such a way as to boost the sensible interpretation.

See my other reply for more research into the proper usage of this phrase, but I'm not about to desist using it.


[ Parent ]

Mass Media and the Culture of Youth (4.16 / 6) (#31)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 06:08:10 PM EST

Why the ants and giants? Only Mass Media (Vivendi, Bertelsmann, AOL Time/Warner, Disney, Viacom) can support the culture of youth that pervades our society. By culture of youth, I mean the use of change as a primary paradigm for society. It embraces the Now, always exploring and changing. It seeks out excitement, and eschews moderation. Only Mass Media (MM) can support the culture of youth.

First, let us contrast the culture of youth with the past. For example, in Dickens A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge goes to the party with Mr. Fezziwig, who is the best dancer? Mr. Fezziwig. Culture at that point changed slow enough that there was an advantage to being old. In the culture of youth, graduating seniors barely even recognize the dance and trends of incoming freshmen. Change for change's sake is embraced. Second, look at musical evolution. From baroque to romantic...years upon years of change. You can count the main musical styles from 1,000 to 1,500 on one hand. Since the turn of the 20th century...good luck.

The reason only MM, the Giants, can support the Now is because the now takes money. It takes money because of innovation, reproduction, and distribution. In the past, innovation took place on the edges of whatever industry. There was always a connection with the past. The Giants of today require constant innovation, constant change. I'd like to propose that this quest for eternal innovation is a new cultural mentality. Reproduction is also necessary, in the Now. Small pockets of innovation cannot survive. For example, in business, the goal is not to become a well-established company, but a company that can be bought out, and manufactured. Reproducing the same music, the same art, the same culture everywhere. Think "globalism". (A real quick thought: perhaps society oscillates between quick change on a global level and slower change on a local level. At any given time, there is still the same amount of change, but the effects are felt differently.) And distribution: moving the product around the world. Linked to reproduction somewhat, yet distribution refers more to the spread of the same information, whereas reproduction is creating the information over and over again, for distribution.

Well, that's all I have to say about why there are Giants. I think that the Now is harmful, but I'll treat that shallowly:
1. The now leads to a loss of cultural identity. (Because the past provides identity, and fast change looses contact with the past)
2. The Now is unsustainable (ideas die out, there is nothing new under the sun, and economic impact)

So I think it would be a good idea to reject the culture of youth. Don't, by any means, stop innovating. But take an almost Amish approach to innovation. "Rubber wheels on our buggy - lets try it." See, they don't reject change, they just think about it for a while. And maintain a connection with the past.


trend away from local production (3.33 / 3) (#33)
by refulgence on Sat Jan 19, 2002 at 09:06:41 PM EST

It's worth noting that this trend away from local production is not just found in the entertainment industry. The industrial revolution moved practically everything away from local craftsmen to more efficient, centralized production. This is what makes our modern society possible.

"Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations."  JennyHolzer
However.. (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by Alfie on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 02:38:24 PM EST

Cultural works, such as art and music, are usually considered distinct from utilities, such as automobiles. While it may be appropriate to mass produce products where uniformity and consistency to standards is an ideal, a cultural product's value comes from its personality and uniqueness.

[ Parent ]
Ecstasy verses at 'em (3.00 / 1) (#36)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sun Jan 20, 2002 at 12:01:16 AM EST

We are in love with giants. The giants of Hollywood, the giants of television, the giants of Playstation and computer games. The giants whom we pay to entertain us.

o/~ There's an ant crawling up your back in the nighttime ... ~/o

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

Everyone is an ant... (2.66 / 3) (#43)
by theboz on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 12:08:41 PM EST

Even the gi-ants.


Ok, seriously though, it's more than just the giants and ants, because a lot of those you consider to be giants in this article are pawns themselves. They were your typical local band who sleeps in their van between shows and doesn't make much, but ends up being picked by a record label to make them money. The same thing often goes for actors, atheletes, and other famous people. They are ants too, just being used more than the rest of us.


Artists? (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by Ranieri on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 10:47:36 AM EST

Musicians in the music industry are just that: skilled craftsmen hired by large corporations to produce entertainment for the masses. They are ants, in the sense that the giant is actually a large robot operated by ants organized in a corporate hierarchy (ants are used to hierarchy anyway..). But make no mistake, this robot-giant will crush lone ants that get in its way.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]
Giants and Ants | 48 comments (47 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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