Someone asked on reddit, “Why Paramount can’t get their act together regarding Star Trek?” He included a link showing that it’s last in terms of profitability among movie franchises.
My question is: Why does everyone keep thinking that Star Trek should be more popular?
The original series flopped on NBC after three seasons. However, the idea of syndication took off about the same time and that’s when the nerds and geeks of the world were able to start watching it. If it hadn’t been for syndication, the show would not even be a memory now.
But despite it’s massive success in syndication, it was still niche programing. It was still watched by nerds and geeks. It never transcended into mass popular appeal.
While the first film of the series seemed to do well, adjusted for inflation it did the best of all of them. Financially it was a flop. It did so bad that Paramount was able to wrestle control of the franchise from Roddenberry. Why did it flop? Because the audience for the movie did not extend beyond the group of nerds and geeks who fanatically watched the series in syndication.
Compare that to Star Wars, which appealed to older people who grew up with Flash Gordon and young people who just wanted to see laser sword fights in space.
Let’s look at other franchises, the Lord of the Rings was able to appeal to more than those who have read the book. The current Marvel/Disney superhero franchise has cast a very wide net. The Harry Potter series did a great job extending to people who hadn’t read the book.
But the commonality is that they’re simple. Despite the complexity of the story, the Lord of the Rings was simply defeating evil by throwing a ring into a volcano. The Marvel movies are as simple as you can get. Brightly outfitted heroes kicking the shit out of evil costumed villains. And the Potter series is pure genius. Who wouldn’t love the story of an orphan child with deep hidden talents. Regardless with what’s going on on the screen, the story appeals to us. We root for Harry because we want it to be true about ourselves.
But Star Trek is not simple. As I’ve written about before, it’s complex. The stories are not simple spoon fed stories to entertain, they’re sci-fi designed to get you to think. They’re moral stories wherein the solution is not to have the hero beat the bad guy into oblivion. They’re moral stories where sometimes the unpopular choice is the right choice.
So if Paramount tries to make Star Trek simple with mass appeal, it’ll kill Star Trek in the process. That’s what’s happened to the reboot movies. They’ve disposed of everything that made Star Trek unique and pissed off the fans in the process.
Is it too much to ask to live in a world where profits don’t have to be maximized in everything? That some pleasures should be enjoyed for their own sake? Probably. Because Star Trek will be killed. For that I have no doubt.
People are outraged that the highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that upskirting is “perfectly legal.” However, the Court made no such ruling. And while most people would consider it a distinction without a point, this confusion about what courts actually do needs to be cleared up. Despite the fact we learned all this shit in elementary school.
Legislatures make the laws. The executive branch enforces the laws. And the courts interpret the laws.
In other words, a court cannot decide what actions are legal or illegal. All it can do is interpret the language of what the legislature has decided to make legal or illegal.
In this instance the state of Massachusetts did not have a law making it illegal to take upshot photographs. Why? Because the legislature in Massachusetts didn’t write one, or wrote one very poorly. Whose fault is that? The Court’s? Nope. The Governor’s? Nope. The police officers’? Nope. It was and only is the legislature’s fault. It is their job to make such activity illegal. They failed.
However, as pointed out above, everyone is blaming the Court for making the ruling. Once again, the Court can only do what the legislature allows them to do. The Court cannot sua sponte decide what actions are legal or illegal. If that were true, we’d no longer have a democracy. We’d have various star chambers locking people up based up on their personal whims.
In this case the Court was faced with a defendant who took upskirt photos of women. He was charged with a crime based on a statute which barred the taking of photos when the “the subject was another person who was nude or partially nude.” The women he photographed were neither nude or partially nude. They were fully clothed. Accordingly, the statute, as written, clearly did not apply to him. Accordingly again, he could not be convicted of that crime.
The legislature of Massachusetts has fixed the statute so that new upskirters can be charged and convicted. Which is a good thing. But what the court did was not a bad thing. The court did its job.
Politicians and the wealthy tell us that capitalism works. That while there are occasionally disparities and disadvantages, the magic invisible hand of the free market fixes such problems over time. But four news stories demonstrate that this is all complete bullshit.
The first story involves T-Mobile lowering its prices, which caused other carriers to compete on prices. That’s what is supposed to happen, right? Prices get lowered by competition, right? Well, not here. You see Wall Street is loudly complaining that wireless carriers have to compete on price.
“The most disappointing thing is that AT&T is reacting to T-Mobile,” said Jefferies analyst Michael McCormack. “How long is it before Verizon reacts?”…McCormack (is) worried about the implication that industry revenue could be cut by $20 billion. “That’s clearly not a healthy sign.”
You read that right. Wall Street is “disappointed” that AT&T is lowering its price in the face of competition. Wall Street is “disappointed” that free market capitalism is actually working. Wall Street considers competition to be unhealthy for our economy.
The next story comes from Texas. A tea party “job creator” is outright pissed that applicants for jobs have the audacity to ask what the wages will be! Things were obviously much better in the old days when we kidnapped employees in Africa and brought them over on ships. You didn’t hear too much complaints about wages back then, right?
Seriously, wages are supposed to occur in a free market right? Employees have the right in this free market system to decide whether they want to work, based on the amount of wages, right? If no one is willing to work, that forces wages to rise. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But, apparently not in Texas.
Next up is a story about how low inflation is hurting the rich because consumers now have the freedom to put off purchases because prices are not rising as drastically.
You see, I thought free market capitalism was all about consumers having free choices. And those free choices picked winners and losers in the marketplace. Now we’re being told that we shouldn’t have that much choice. That we should pressured and forced to buy now rather than when it’s convenient or financially advantageous. Gee, how dare we try and take advantage of the mighty job creators?! Buy now, damn it… buy!
And last but not least is yet another example of a state trying to ban direct sales of motor vehicles to consumers. Namely, Telsa.
You see, the new car market is not a free market. It’s against the law for a manufacturer of automobiles to sell directly to customers. By law we have to buy through a middleman, the dealer. Telsa is trying to avoid a bunch of middlemen to lower costs and prices. That’s what supposed to happen in a free market, right? Efficiencies are created to lower prices and create competition, right?
The wondrous state of New York is passing a law to ban efficient direct sales to customers. They’re claiming it’s to protect consumers, somehow. But a quote from a spokesperson makes it perfectly clear:
“If you allow someone to come into the market with no overhead, that’s an unfair advantage.”
Basically what he’s saying is that it’s the government’s job to protect corporations with bloated overhead from innovation and efficiencies. The state of New York is actually going to make it illegal to compete against dealers based upon innovations and efficiencies.
Remember, all of these stories did not come from some left wing communist conspiracy theories nutjobs. These stories came directly from the mouths of the wealthy and from politicians. They acknowledge we don’t live in a free market economy. They admit that they shouldn’t have to compete on price, that employees are more synonymous with slaves than with equal members of society, that we shouldn’t really have choices and advantages as to when we buy, and lastly, that it’s the government job to ensure that prices remain high and that middlemen continue getting their cut.
Sony’s PS4 is beating Microsoft’s Xbox One by a wide margin.
But is the PS4 selling more than the One because it’s better than the One? Or is the One not selling because it’s not sufficiently better than the 360?
Let me explain. As far as I’m concerned the Xbox 360 was perfect. My son has a PS3, but rarely ever uses it. The 360′s Live feature is just too addicting. All of his friends are on it. Even if they’re not playing the same game, or even if he’s just watching Netflix, he’s talking to all of his friends. Heck, even if he’s playing the PS3 he still has his 360 headphones and mic on.
My son’s Boy Scout troop has an “electric weekend.” That’s where they go to a camp but do nothing but play video games for about three days. No merit badges. No hikes. Just gaming. In three years my son has been going to electric weekend, the only time I’ve ever seen a PS3 was the first one. And that’s because my son brought it along with his 360. He didn’t use it.
So when the One came out, I asked my son if he wanted it. He basically asked, “Why?” He can do everything he wants on the 360. There are no new games he wants that require the One. There is no boost in graphics that makes the One a must have. So in his mind it’s sort of pointless.
In a nutshell, the 360 is so good, there’s no reason to upgrade.
The PS3, however, always felt patched together. It tried to be a blu-ray player, when no one wants to buy blu-rays.
Sony tried to compete with Microsoft’s Live with hits PSN and it’s social space Home, but those were failures. There was the huge security breach that scared a lot of people from buying Sony, in general, and the PSN in particular.
Sony’s Move, an attempt to compete with the Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect, was an admitted failure. (I remember standing in line at Best Buy waiting to use the Kinect with my kids while Sony’s Move display sat unused.)
I could go on and on. From the arrogantly priced introduction to the release of the PS4, the PS3 just was never able to catch up to the 360.
I think the PS4 is the answer to the abysmal PS3. While there is no reason for 360 owners to upgrade to the One. There are plenty of reasons for PS3 owners to try out the PS4.
In a way the 360 is like XP. It works so well that millions of people aren’t willing to upgrade. My guess is that eventually Microsoft will start pulling features out of the 360 to force users to upgrade. E.g., pulling Hulu and Netflix would be a start in the right, but evil, direction.
I just read over at Tech Dirt that both the Xbox One and the PS4 cannot play MP3s and lack DLNA support.
The lack of MP3 support is just insane. To think that $500 center of your living room cannot do something as simple as play MP3s is simply ludicrous.
Most people probably don’t use DLNA, but it allows you to stream content from your PC or network. So you can keep your MP3s and ripped TV shows and movies on your PC (or networked DLNA device) and watch them on your 360 or PS3. Not anymore.
Once again, these devices cost hundreds of dollars but cannot do what a dirt cheap Roku or WDTV can do. It appears that both Sony and Microsoft are going backwards. And instead of putting their customers first, they’re putting third party corporate interests first. Truly fucking sad.
I’ve previously written about the failure of Windows 8 and it’s godawful Metro interface. My solution was that Microsoft should have separated the Metro GUI from Windows for different markets. Metro for touch screens/tablets and Windows for everything else. I no longer think that. I now think that Metro was a bound to fail no matter what.
I came to this conclusion after reading some comments Microsoft GUI designer Jacob Miller left on reddit. He wanted to explain the logic of including the Metro GUI in Windows 8.
The problem with Windows, according to Miller, was that it was used by both content creators/power users and content consumers/idiots. Because of that Windows could never be fully everything to anyone. It always had to balance between giving power users enough control and not giving the idiots too much rope to hang themselves.
So including Metro in Windows 8 and making it default was a way to force idiots to use a stupid and asinine GUI just for them. While the “real” Windows GUI could be used by power users to do actual work. The hope was that eventually Microsoft could finally add more power to the Windows GUI, e.g., multiple desktops, and other things that Linux have offered for decades.
Maybe Microsoft could have made the distinction between Metro and Windows more distinct. The Metro interface could have been included on all new consumer/entry level PCs. The Windows GUI would have been included as an option on higher-end PCs.
But that wouldn’t have worked because the Metro interface requires a touchscreen, which would eliminate it from low cost entry level machines. Interestingly, Miller argues in the link above that Metro was specifically designed to be used on non-touch PCs through a variety of keyboard shortcuts.
That is so fucking stupid my head hurts. Metro is a GUI designed for ignorant idiots. But yet you expect them to learn a bunch of keyboard shortcuts?! Really? That was your plan? No. That won’t work.
If you give idiots a GUI with big tiles to push, they’re gonna want to push those tiles. But more importantly, those kids and grandmas who Miller thinks Metro was designed for don’t know how to type. I know people who can type and have used Windows for decades who still don’t know any of the Windows keyboard short cuts. But yet Miller believes the bottom of the ignorant barrel are gonna suddenly become keyboard masters with their hunt and peck approach?! Not gonna happen.
I’m beginning to think that even my two-tiered approach to Metro/Windows wouldn’t have worked. The fact is that the world doesn’t need Metro. Maybe it did a decade ago. But right now consumers of content use their phones and tablets. Right now consumers of content have no use for a noisy full-fledged PC on their desk. Right now the consumer PC is dead.
And as I’ve written about previously, Microsoft has to start concentrating on building a GUI for people who still need to use PCs or risk losing that still lucrative market. In other words, Microsoft has to stop making a GUI for content consumers. Those days are done. They’re never coming back. So make a GUI for power users. We’re still out there. Don’t wait until we all switch to Macs and Linux. Because by then it’ll be too late.
Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times has written a piece explaining how not to get stuck with the next Nook. In other words, how to avoid buying into a technology which will almost certainly be obsolete.
Farhad’s solution is three fold: Buy Apple hardware. It’s the best and will likely remain that way. Buy content from Amazon. It’s the best and will likely remain that way. Buy/use services from Google, they’re the best and will likely remain that way.
What’s missing from Farhad’s piece is anything from Microsoft.
So Microsoft’s public relations chief, Frank Shaw, responded to Farhad. Business Insider claims that Frank “Shreds New NY Times Columnist Over His Advice Column.”
But there was no shredding at all. Strangely, Frank concedes that Apple is better at hardware. That Amazon is better at content. And Google is better at services. Microsoft’s chief of public relations concedes that there is no reason for anyone to buy or use Microsoft. You can read it yourself.
Frank’s entire argument is that things change. And maybe one day Microsoft will have hardware, content, or services, you might want to use. That’s the fucking best Microsoft’s chief of public relations can do: Maybe later. Wow.
Microsoft is basking in profits. So it’s really hard to criticize its business. But, when your head of public relations can’t come up with a single product or service that beats your three major competitors, maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe Microsoft’s time is over.
Damon Linker, over at The Week, has written two pieces in which he argues that liberals are going too far in their push for equal rights for gays and reproductive rights for women. Here’s the first. Here’s the second, written in response to the New Republic’s Isaac Chotiner’s response to his first.
I came across the second piece first. So I’ll take them in reverse order here.
Linker states in his second piece that Chotiner doesn’t appreciate his argument that liberals are getting cocky and are “arrogantly pushing traditionalist religious believers into a corner” with contraceptive and gay marriage laws. He states that he’s going to “try once more to convince” Chotiner.
Linker concedes that “the vast majority of American Catholics see no problem with the use of artificial birth control, so the issue doesn’t generate much sympathy in the public at large.” Plus, there’s the fact that the Obama administration carved out an exception for churches. So, all is well right? Nope.
So what’s the problem?
First, the people who are still objecting to the mandate “can’t just be waved away.” But what is their argument? Why should we listen to them?
Well, Linker argues that the issues raised “are real.”
Yeah, but how are they “real”? We don’t know. Linker says nothing else. Linker’s argument is circular. We should accept their arguments because they’re real. That’s it.
So let’s turn to gay marriage. Linker argues that laws which ban discrimination and allow gay marriage “pose a very real threat to the religious freedom of millions of his fellow citizens.” How so? He never says.
Linker does say that the desire to discriminate against gays is not at all like racism. Because, “strictures against homosexuality are rooted far more deeply in the Judeo-Christian tradition than racism ever was.” Linker brushes over the fact that some Christians have used theology to promote and continue slavery, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.
Linker argues that if liberals continue to equate religious based homophobia with religious based racism, we can expect that “traditionalist religious views will be denied legitimacy by the courts, denigrated in the public schools, and thoroughly marginalized in our public life.”
Linker might be right about that. If Christians continue to want to deny reproductive rights to women and want to discriminate and deny basic rights to homosexuals and lesbians, people might to start denigrating those religious people and will stop giving them legitimacy. But that would be those Christians’ own fault. If you step out of the mainstream, don’t complain when you’re treated as such.
Ok, that was Linker’s response. I bet his first piece was better and more in depth. Maybe the first one has actual arguments in support of his position.
Linker starts out criticizing an admitted publicity stunt where an ex-Mormon is attempting to sue the Mormon church in England. That has nothing to do with reproductive rights or gay marriage. Linker’s argument is basically, If we don’t stop these darn liberals, they might start actually holding churches legally responsible for the crap they pull. For Linker, churches should be absolutely immune from every divulging their “truths” in courts. Linker never explains why he believes that. But I imagine it’s analogous to pulling back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.
Linker next argues that there is no Wall of Separation between church and state, but that it’s more analogous to a “skirmish line.” But despite calling it a skirmish line, he’s still pissed that the line is being pushed against Christians. Apparently, he believes the line should only go the Christian way.
Linker next argues that liberals who dare to push the skirmish line “run the risk of turning themselves into latter-day Jacobins, the anti-religious zealots who dominated the French Revolution.” That’s got to be the very worst, and hyperbolic, slippery slope argument I’ve ever read. “I want the right to marry the person I’m in love with, then later I’ll institute a widespread program of executions against anyone who disagrees with me.” “I want the right to chose when I get pregnant, then later I’ll institute a widespread program of executions against anyone who disagrees with me. Oh yeah, that makes sense.
But, as you’ll see below, the same “Jacobins” accusation was made against abolitionists who opposed slavery.
Linker next argues that the United States has traditionally been more “friendlier to faith” than Europe and that it would be a shame to “stamp out these religious and moral differences in the name of homogenous adherence to a single vision of the good.”
And with that we finally got to Linker’s argument. What he is so gosh darn mad about. He first claims that he’s in favor or reproductive rights and gay marriage. However, he argues:
But I also believe that a free society should permit its members to disagree on these issues. And that when liberals use the government’s coercive powers to force believers to change their views or act against their most deeply held spiritual convictions, liberals (paradoxically) commit an act of illiberalism.
And that is where Linker is wrong. First, laws protecting reproductive rights and barring discrimination do not force anyone to change their beliefs on anything. If such laws did change beliefs, we would no longer have any racists in this county, but yet we do.
If you believe that gays should not marry, that blacks have the curse of Ham, or that deafness is a sin, nothing is stopping you from believing that.
But Linker already knows that. What he’s really complaining about is that such laws might cause a minority of Christians to “act against their most deeply held spiritual convictions.”
What acts are Linker talking about? Well, the right to keep women pregnant. The right to judge people and discriminate against them.
As Linker knows, but brushed over, slave owners used the exact same arguments when abolitionists tried to outlaw slavery in the American South. Here’s what James Thornwell, a minister who supported slavery, wrote in 1860,
“The parties in this conflict are not merely Abolitionists and slaveholders, they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins on the one side and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other.”
That sounds a lot like Linker’s argument above. He calls those who support reproductive and gay rights a lot of names. And then he considers anyone standing in opposition to those pesky liberals to be a friend of religious freedom.
Linker wants the gay and reproductive “evolution” to “take place at its own pace, without being forcibly imposed by the coercive powers of the state.” But it is. After centuries of fighting for these rights, those who favor such rights are clearly in the majority. So they’re using that to put an end to their struggles.
We didn’t wait for slavery to end naturally, we ended it by government fiat. We didn’t wait for women to have the right to vote naturally, we imposed it, by government fiat.
And even with these rights being imposed by law, no one is forced to act any particular way. If you don’t want a gay marriage, don’t marry someone of your own gender. If you don’t want to own a company that is required by law to provide reproductive services to women, don’t own a company.
Christians think they’re being forced to do something, but they’re not. Look at the Amish. Rather than to move forward with the rest of society, they’ve chosen to put their religious convictions first and live in the past.
The problem is that Christians nowadays don’t have the faith of their convictions. They want their convictions, they just don’t want to be inconvenienced by them. So they want all of society to bend to make those convictions easier. Their “right” to discriminate is more important than the right of men to marry each other. Their “right” to impose ancient reproductive laws on women is more important than the rights of those women to make their own choices. Their rights are more important than those of the general population because… well, because they are.
Sorry, but faith isn’t easy. Jesus didn’t ask the Romans for an easy punishment. Early Christian martyrs didn’t request suspended sentences from the Romans. And when Protestants and Catholics were physically oppressed in Europe, they took huge risks to come to the New World to set up colonies and practice their faiths. In fact some people argue that martyrdom is a fundamental component of Christianity.
And I think that’s why Christians are such crybabies nowadays. They’ve forgotten that faith involves sacrifice and suffering.
So they cry about a “war on Christmas” when people celebrate different holidays in December. They cry about a “war on marriage” when people they’ve never met want to get married. They cry about a “war on family” when women they’ve never met decide to wait to have a babies. They cry because they’re no longer willing to suffer or sacrifice for their faith. They cry because society is no longer making it easy for them. And they cry because suddenly faith has consequences.
Welcome to 2014, Mr. Linker.
I was thinking about this and came up with another example. Certainly the Amish keep their faith without asking the world to bend to it. There are also female Muslim athletes, such as those who compete in the Olympics. These women are restricted by their religion to wear certain clothing. However, they don’t force the rest of the world to follow those rules. They follow their rules while still competing. Even though it’s more difficult. Even though they have to work harder. Their faith is important enough to make the sacrifice. Why don’t Christians feel their faith is that important?
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece defending drivers from Atlanta from driving in the snow. My argument was that the snow and ice merely exacerbated an already terrible traffic situation.
Now I’m not so sure. Look at this picture:
Notice anything weird? How about this one:
This one is from Kansas, not from the south, but do you notice anything weird about this:
So what’s up with the cars catching on fire? Cars never catch on fire in the north? So what’s going on?
According to a thread on Reddit, people who don’t know how to drive in the snow “redline” their cars until they catch on fire. That means the driver floors the accelerator, which runs the motor at full power, until it catches on fire.
This can be confirmed in the article about the vehicle in Kansas,
The car caught on fire trying to make it up a snow-covered hill on Lawrence Avenue.
Got to get up this hill. Not going anywhere. I’d better floor it until I do.
As you may know, Windows 8 was a fucking disaster. It was designed for tablets, notebooks, and desktops… all at the same time! And worse of all the tablet GUI was made default. Even though the overwhelming vast majority of Windows users don’t have, use, or need touch screens. And as you also may know, sales for Windows desktops are falling.
So what is Paul’s solution? Paul suggests that Microsoft should give up trying to make Windows for everyone and concentrate on making a version of Windows for people who still need to use it: business workers.
Imagine going to work and using a PC that is specifically designed to make your job easier?! That’d be fucking awesome! No pretty GUI. No frills or flourishes. Just a barebones system, stripped of all the family shit, running on a quad core system. God, that’d be awesome.
Paul, I think you realize that Microsoft will never do that. They’ll keep trying to make a system for everyone, driving everyone away. But, we can dream, can’t we?
Update: Brian Fung at the Washington Post has written a pretty good piece explaining the business/consumer dichotomy at Microsoft, and how all profits are currently coming from the business side while the consumer side is draining resources.
I have to admit I once thought the idea of spinning off the Xbox division was ludicrous, but after reading Fung’s piece, I’m forced to agree. The Xbox has to go. Microsoft, you created the Xbox so as to not lose the living room. However, you’ve already lost it. The living room is now phones, tablets, and smart TVs. Look into nearly any living room and that’s what you see people actually using.
The piece also supports my argument that Microsoft has to start concentrating on content creating users. While Windows sales are way down among consumers, sales are strong in the corporate realm. So why is Microsoft aiming Windows towards a dwindling population of newbies and away from a growing population corporate buyers? It makes no sense.
As you may have heard, Bill Nye recently debated Ken Ham as to whether there is a god, or even a God. Regarding the debate, there was much debate as to whether atheists should even debate christians. Most atheists seem to love such debates only so they can see an atheist intellectually beat up a theist. That’s kind of petty, to me.
I’m of the opinion that debates between atheists and theists are a bad idea. And this can be shown in the following picture.
The purpose of a debate is to get to the truth. However, that’s impossible when dealing with theists. Theists believe based on faith, not on reason. There is simply no way an atheist can change a theist’s mind.
In other words, there is actually no way to “win” the debate because you’re never going to get a theist to come to your side of the debate. At best you have a draw. That’s the very absolute best.
At worst, however, is a situation where a charismatic theist wipes the floor with an atheist. That wouldn’t have happened with Bill Nye, who is very charismatic, but not every atheist has years of experience in front of people and cameras.
So in conclusion, while an atheist could never win a debate, s/he could lose it. Given those two options, I don’t see the point.
Update: Mark Joseph Stern over at Slate has his own take on this problem here.