ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Bad Ingredients —

Unfortunately, I have succeeded in crashing my machine twice, losing two revisions of a weblog entry. At that point, the third would have been destined for a hash-slung version of what came before, my tired eyes attempting to gain magic easily lost and replacing it with something quite inferior. So, I’ll do something else, and just make a small observation.

More and more, there are food-like products on the shelves, sold to be pure versions of a type of food, but in fact a somewhat horrible non-version of it. For example, there are fruit juices for sale that have no fruit juice in them, or a laughably small amount, say 5%, with the rest primarily being sugar and water. I’m always kind of wondering who buys these things, willingly purchasing something that contains very little of what that product supposedly is. It can’t be healthy, and maybe it’s just a matter of the product being less expensive, or maybe they don’t know any better and don’t think about it. Either way, you end up with bread that has little grain, juice that has no fruit, seafood that has no fish, soda that doesn’t have anything. One side of me thinks this is a company that hates people, giving them the worst possible iteration of something for the purposes of greed. But another worries me even more: that they went out, asked people, checked up on things, did studies, and found out this is precisely what people want and wish to have. In that case, they are entirely doing what they’re supposed to be doing: satisfying customers. If this is the case, I feel very lonely.

Similarly, there’s a trend that’s been around a very long time that I hate: using movies as historical footage. I’ve seen American Graffiti used as historical footage of the 1950s, Apocalypse Now used as historical footage of various American-involved wars, and now Hackers is being used as footage showing the history of computer hacking. Movies are never made with the intent of being all that accurate; they’re made to entertain and often use a historical situation as a backdrop to a character-driven drama in the foreground between made-up characters. Often these characters are combinations of real people, or derivatives of a real person, or say things that someone else unrelated said. The whole thing is a blender of reality, designed to take you from one end of the movie and lay you down at the other, belly full of popcorn, eyes full of lights. To use this material (as news programs often do) as representative footage of events and places referenced in the “story” is on the same level as using songs by Chubby Checker as replacement “footage” of a Martin Luther King speech. Yet it happens constantly. Radio programs, even supposedly journalistic ones, do this as well.

So the question is, do they simply hate and disrespect their audiences? Or did they go out and ask and find out this is exactly what the audiences want? Is a sleepy-eyed Angelina Jolie going to be the iconic representation of computer hacking for the next 15 years, as it has for the last 15? Can’t we do better?

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  1. Shii says:

    The first half of your post was so tangential I was worried. But I have to say, I read a label on a lemonade dispenser that said, “Contains 0% Fruit Juice,” and I laughed out loud.

    By the way, *who* is it who uses movies as historical footage?

  2. Peter says:

    …and now Hackers is being used as footage showing the history of computer hacking.


  3. Jason Scott says:

    *who* is using movies as historical footage?

    I have seen it used by local news stations in Boston and New York City, and in feature pieces in NPR. I’ve seen movie still frames used in magazines as well, to illustrate historical points.

    Obviously, these are credited: “Courtesy Universal Pictures”, etc. But they’re not credited like “We had no shots of the civil war so here’s a clip from a movie.”

  4. Patrick says:

    If I may, I’d like to recommend trying out my AutoSave plugin for MT. It does what the name says, auto-saving your entry every X seconds so that you can concentrate on writing.

  5. I wonder if the same people using movie clips in leiu of true historical photographs are the same people who continue to use the same Atari 2600 videogame sounds for every videogame in every television show. If I hear the Atari 2600 version of Donkey Kong on one more television show where kids are supposed to be playing modern videogames, I’ll … I’ll … I’ll steal your girlfriend, climb to the top of the nearest steel girder structure, and throw barrels at you!