Sunday, August 24, 2008

YouTube ads for porn?

Since I don't live under a rock, I know there's a lot of crossover between pornography and YouTube. But today I saw it manifest in a brave new way.

Having followed a link from Seth Godin to I semi-accidentally clicked on this video link:

Which got me the screenshot above. Fascinating.

(And no, I didn't click on the porn link. Could be, um, a Trojan.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Psychedelic Cattle

It's morning again, and again I'm washing my shoes. This is the ritual. This is how summer passes wraithlike through San Francisco, in a barely perceptible, stubbornly sticky coat of red-brown dust. In pitchers of Radeberger, in Porta-Potties full of bats.

The word Zeitgeist, a good German word with more than a hint of the Enlightenment about it, is almost translatable, and what it can almost be translated to in English is the spirit of the times. It's one of those words we know or pretend to know if we read the New York Times on Sunday, and pretend to not know if we really like motorcycles. But if the Zeitgeist was ever a spirit of the times, it would have to be the times of a soaring NASDAQ and resurgent cocaine chic and that glorious self-delusional high of not quite winning in the Boom. Of having more than you should, but less than you could, and in any case having it all built on a tower of some flat, syrupy artisanal homage to England.

But that wasn't really the moment. Zeitgeist was full every day then, even on the fog-bitten cold nights, and everyone could always afford enough artisanal British Columbian weed to tough it out. Some of those people still go, but the easy money's gone and the people who got theirs have bought houses and acquired offspring and a habit of not taking them to bars. The Zeitgeist is a spirit, that's as clear as Everclear, but it's not the spirit of the times.

The bartenders, mostly, are still the same. The modern primitive Webmonkey addicts have moved on, and the tattoos have settled back to the honest pedigree of a drunken night out. The ugly people have sway again, and on those warm afternoons when a breeze of gorgeous hipsters wafts over the benches you can close your eyes and remember that the crowd was pretty ugly during the dot-boom as well; it was just much better off.

Now it's back to basics, in a way. Back to people who like to ride bikes; does anyone even remember the bike-messenger fashion? Back to people who like their motorcycles more than their Ducati-branded leather jackets. Back to the rest of us too, loving it and hating it at the same time, thrilled to be drinking a fine Ossi beer in the sun in a cold town, thrilled at the focus on conversation, at the constant pickup that's rarely more than a flirt, at this tiny drop of down-market European civility in such an unlikely place - and in the same heartbeat appalled at the blandness, the lack of ambition, the hesher grunts and the standing water breeding unknown tropical diseases - and terrified, always terrified of those bats.

So maybe Zeitgeist is the spirit of timelessness, or of San Francisco's way of letting a beer sit through two generations of newcomers and still drinking it. Or maybe it's just psychedelic cattle.

(I wrote this for Brice, probably over a year ago, and mailed it to him, but his e-mail was broken that day. I just ran across it again, and I don't think I posted it anywhere, so here it is. And the bats idea was from James. )

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Apple's movie rental service is an insult.

Lately I've been buying TV shows off iTunes. Dexter, The Wire... cool stuff, almost (but not quite) enough to make me want a TiVo or whatever the TV-watchers use these days.

Then I tried to rent a movie, just for kicks. I knew Apple had this idea that a rental is only for one day, which is straight out of 1985, but I wanted to give it a shot. Because even if the selection is clearly not aimed at people like me, the price point is: I pay $3 for a movie six blocks away, so $2.99 is a strong temptation to not take the walk, especially at night.

So I downloaded The Passenger, and watched about a third of it before falling asleep. Now, about an hour past the 24-hour mark (I was warned!) I'm lost in a confusion-profusion of shitty app development worthy of Vista Premium Super Edition.

When I enter iTunes where the movie was playing, I see it's expired. Bummer, bad business model, strong incentive to visit the Pirate Bay, but hey -- I was warned, and I ponied up my $2.99 anyway. But wait, there's more!

When I try to play the movie anyway, it sorta-kinda plays. The small preview window shows a still of what I think is the spot I left off, and the large window shows me a field of grey... but gives me the full audio. Awesome. I can spoil the plot without straining my eyes! But wait, it gets even better!

If I try to pause the movie, I'm told that stopping it is going to erase it, but that I can resume it if I like. And resuming it gives me the grey screen with the audio. Thrilling.

I finally gave up. And next time around, I'll either hit the video store or, if it's too late, maybe the Bay, or maybe -- just maybe -- pay the $10 to "buy" the movie for a single use (iTunes DRM makes it impractical to do much more, at least in my world).

It's a shame, because Apple is pretty close on this one, they just seem to have made their plans without consulting anyone who actually rents movies. Maybe they only talked to Netflix and Disney, and split what they thought was the difference.

Hey Steve, it's simple: let me watch the movie once through, no matter how long it takes, and no matter how many times I stop, start, rewind (within reason) and even quit iTunes. Let me watch it as many times as I want within 3 days of finishing the first time. Bingo, with that you will have my corner videotheque beat: they only do 3 days from the rental, and they close at 11. Of course, they have a much better selection than iTunes, but I think that's a different issue.

Honestly, it baffles me that they screwed this one up so bad. But then they completely blew the "Mobile Me" launch and I still have to wait six hours to buy an iPhone, so it does rather look like Steve's perfectionist grip is not so tight these days. Sad.