Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Falling Trees for the Falling Leaves

I sat down with hummus and pita at 6pm last night to watch the latest live Rifftrax performance--this time, Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy were watching an educational short from the 50s called "Overcoming Fear". A minute or so in was the first joke that made me laugh really hard--a woman standing by a pool was struck lightly by a volleyball in the stomach after which she fell helplessly into the water. Mike said something like, "Tragically, moments later, Janet's skull was crushed by a falling leaf."

I laughed, the video froze, the Rifftrax web site went down, the Rifftrax blog went down, and neither is back online even now. Even the banner ad I'd put on Venia's Travels isn't loading. I hope they resolve the problem soon. This seems to have been the most successful venture the MST3k guys have had since Sci-Fi Channel prematurely cancelled the series. I've been following most of their projects, too, particularly Mike's, as he was MST3k's head writer. There was their comedy magazine style web site, Timmy Big Hands, there were their various ventures under the guise of The Film Crew, there were books they published. But they really seem to have hit on something with Rifftrax. I was already kind of worried about it with the economy the way it is. It would really suck if they were killed by the bandwith problems caused by the larger audience they'd been actively seeking.

It already feels like all corners of the internet are becoming increasingly clogged by advertisements. Advertising really is a strange thing to me. Mostly they're obnoxious and useless, since people rarely go for something they weren't already looking for. But there's no other substantial way of funding entertainment media. There are donations, patronage, and grants, all of which are difficult to acquire even in the best of times and come with a social stigma; in a capitalist society with puritanical roots like this one, there seems to be a fundamental difficulty people have with acknowledging the value of anything that does not generate money. And, on the same token, things that generate a lot of money for no discernable reason automatically garner a great deal of respect, which is how we ended up with the successful perpetrators of Ponzi schemes, like Bernie Madoff, who are now being forced out of the woodwork by the bad economy.

The delusion goes so far that Madoff is even now only under house arrest, which means he enjoys the comforts of an expensive home and luxuries while people have lost their entire life savings and institutions have fallen thanks to this guy. But it would be unthinkable to put anyone so respected in the community in prison immediately. Just because he'd come by his money illegally and to the harm of many, why shouldn't he be allowed to post bail with it?

Doing research for my comic recently, I read about how inefficient the manorial system of the Middle Ages actually was, maintaining year around tenant villein labour for the aristocracy rather than hiring labour for specific jobs when needed. Apparently no-one saw the inefficiency for so long because the people in charge were getting along well enough. It makes me wonder if there's a better way for people to live and work to-day that just hasn't been seen yet because of capitalist delusions of the wealthy. I heard about one agent on Howard Stern who chose not to invest with Madoff and thereby saved his client's assets. Madoff had just looked too good to be true to him, and the lack of transparency in Madoff's operations for his investors had seemed suspicious. But I don't think I could call the people who did invest with Madoff suckers--to not have been taken in by Madoff would seem to have been something like moving against what has been widely deemed the natural order of the universe.

Last night I watched the eighth episode of Battlestar Galactica's second season, which wasn't nearly as bad as the previous episode, but not great either. But I've never really liked the "showing the familiar characters through the perspective of a television reporter" style episode in any series. They always feel a little stilted to me--it seems like there's a conceit that the format will make things seem more "real", but the artifice of the setup actually has the complete opposite effect for me. I've noticed they're not only avoiding old Sharon's autopsy, they've also decided to avoid interrogating the new Sharon. Am I crazy for wanting to know what she could have to say about the Cylons' plans? Am I not supposed to care about that?

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