ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Keep on Keeping On —

My friend Charlie officially announced he was sick of me showing people cool new stuff I’d downloaded at my editing station in my office. It’s a nice editing station, a nice office and (often enough) really cool stuff, but any more than two people and you just can’t see the screens. “Get this stuff on your TV”, he said.

Quick research found that I could head on down to Best Buy, buy a device called a DN191H, and fix the problem immediately. The DN191H is a progressive-scan DVD player that plays a massive range of data, from DVD-Rs full of JPEGs all the way up through regular DVDs and VCDs and CDs and what have you. It also has a “14 in 2” card slot, which means i can take a CompactFlash card from my PC, load it up with anime fansubs I’ve downloaded from somewhere or another, and take this little card with me over to the living room and watch all of the episodes I want as if they were DVDs. And then bring the card back and re-use it again, so I don’t have piles of one-time DVDs sitting around like crack vials.

Again: I can now blow an entire season of TV episodes into a card roughly the size of a matchbook in just a couple minutes and then watch it on my big screen TV in the other room. I can take this matchbook over to a friend’s house (turns out a mutual friend of mine and Charlie’s, Keith, ALSO bought a similar model), play what we brought over, and then trade cards, so we can each bring our stuff back and copy it on our computers or what have you.

Oh, and the DN191H cost me $99.

I dropped out of the day-to-day “!!!!OH MY GOD!!!” world of “copyfighting” for two main reasons. The first is that I am one of the more fanatical collectors of old data and just that project is taking most of my time and effort. Statistically, few others are undertaking this effort. So this is a good division of labor and it’s the only way my stuff will stay updated like it is.

But the second is that if you look at things historically, especially in this country, we just aren’t very good at closing pandora boxes. Once people see something they really dig, especially if that something is a process or tool, we kind of keep demanding it and other people will bore through concrete walls with their teeth to sell it to us.

I appreciate the fighting that goes on, where there’s constant threat that it all will be taken away from us if we don’t stand and deliver but that is often a young man’s game and sadly I am no longer a young man. I’m a methodical misanthrope sorting through piles of history, and when I harangue, I just sound bitter.

But what I also see is that if you look at stuff, it’s often not a case of “they” took away our “right” to do something… it was that the something (more often than not) was prone to kill people (flying cars and personal storage of dynamite comes to mind), was stupid or overtaken with better models (subscription-based milk delivery) or just technologically made obsolete (a block of ice in the basement, a constantly stoked fire in the living room).

No doubt there are definitely some cases of insane laws or overzealous legislative assery getting in the way of progress, happiness or liberty (I’ve lived under blue laws for nearly 20 years now) but again, if there’s enough people that want “it”, they’re going to get “it”.

Every time a company bends over for some bit of idiocy and removes a product from the shelves that people want, there are a dozen happy companies that are made up of 5 guys in a room who are more than happy to sink their life savings to sell you what you wanted back again. And forget companies, people will do it.

Complacency is one thing; the constant assumption that the world will serve you comfortably and that you will always get exactly what you want and when you want it, is a function of the parts of the world where dirt isn’t a vital part of your diet. And it doesn’t just happen that way, either; there’s bumps, there’s outages. The new thing is often made of plastic and kind of predictable, where the old thing was made of metal and much cooler. That definitely happens. But more often than not, the plastic thing gets to the core of what you want.

If it sounds like I’m the old guy in front of his TV saying that on the whole, life is pretty good, I am likely being that very thing. Make no mistake, you can hear me rail and take action in a hundred different venues. But sometimes, every once in a while, it’s good to take a deep breath and marvel that, ultimately, you’re breathing.

And that I can fit an entire season of Ōran Kōkō Hosuto Kurabu on a matchbook.

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