Bob Ross and the Plight of DVR

I normally like Brian Moylan’s articles from Gawker.  He has a certain Jungian charm to his writing, especially his reviews of Jersey Shore.  Which I was so disappointed with his roasting, lambasting, complaining about the foibles of the digital video recorder, or DVR for short.

Listing the gripes for the DVR machine in 2011 is akin to complaining about VCR’s in 1997.  They’re already obsolete.  I wouldn’t be bringing this up were there not a cryptojournalist angle.  This article, and especially the reader comments, prove to be a great disservice to anyone reading the article.

The title of the article, rather than, “Dear Television Industry: You Must Learn To Cooperate With DVR’s, Or Else,” should be, “Let me assist you in making an uninformed decision.”

I should reveal something about myself.  I’m one of those high-and-mighty, slightly condescending types who has figured out how to live without cable television.  Put your tongues back in your mouth, slack jaws.

Even Hill Dawg is shocked folks in the 21st Century live without cable

Know what?  I’m not missing anything.  Well, that’s not totally true.  I’ve got a website for live sports.  Torrents allow me to find just about anything (I’ll get to the virtues of that in a moment).  Oh shit, I forgot.  I DON’T get cable news.  Which, in my book, acts as a net gain.

Which brings me back to Mr. Moylan’s article.  He’s a TV reviewer on the internet.  That is probably the only criteria I could rationalize for having a cable box.  Well, that and if you’re a UFC junkie and cannot do without your Pay-Per-Views.  If you have a measure of patience and an broadband feed (both of which are necessary for reading this blog), you’re playing a suckers game with the cable company.

The crux of the article, along with way too many of the insipid comments, revolve around the trick of networks cutting the last few moments of a show off because it runs ‘past’ the DVR time slot.  Which is, you know, cute and provincial in that way that you don’t know how to program a recording from 9:00-9:32.  I don’t watch 30 Rock.  Wink-and-a-nod consumerism and ‘letting the audience in on the joke’ is not the comedic template for me, I guess.  But if I did, I would not miss the final joke and lead out punchline.  Torrents are too good.

Really, the problem is Moylan vaguely glosses over the ‘or else’.  Call it being wary of biting the hand that feeds.  But paying for cable television is like paying for music….it’s just not necessary.

His final riposte, his warning shot across the bow of network television, falls flat.

It’s time to set things right, television networks, or we’re going to do something even worse than DVRing your precious entertainments. We’re going to start watching them on the internet, where you still haven’t figure out how to make money off of them. Take that!

Except within the limited spectrum of his readers, all that means is watching Jersey Shore on MTV.com and tuning into The Office on Hulu.com.  Both are bad breaks, since both immerse the viewer in advertising.  Um, Brian, why do you think people DVR these days?  To avoid advertising, of course.  It’s the reason Britney Spears is able to earn six figures via product placement.  Lady Gaga and Beyoncé showed her the way, but it’s nothing new.

The readers are called out for their almost complete lack of knowledge on torrents.  Of the 100+ brain dead comments, maybe three even point out the advantage of downloading through torrent engines.

It’s real easy.  Pick an engine.  A torrent engine.  Find a website that hosts torrents.  Then search.  It’s just like Napster or Limewire or some other dead peer-to-peer engine, only you search online instead of in the engine.  More than anything, it involves patience.  The time to download and the time for new shows to upload would rankle many.

Oh did I mention all the commercials are edited out by the time any television show hits the internet?  Now I understand Brian Moylan and Gawker not wanting to appear to support those evil web pirates.  For so many readers who would likely consider themselves smart, tech savvy and ahead of the curve, it illuminates a true ignorance on how the web works.

People love to gripe about the plight of content creators, how internet pirates are ruining the entertainment industry.  These people have never heard of the idea of the prime divider.  It’s a pretty strong notion, and easily analogized through the years.

In the Middle Ages, people were generally illiterate.  Except the clergy.  At that time, literacy was the prime divider.  There were people who could read, and people who could not.  Easy to see how advantage could be gained in such a situation.  The modern equivalent would be computers.

People with access to computers have a great advantage over those without.  Along with the computer has come the internet.  They’re so interconnected, like a shoe and its laces.  The internet proves to act as another prime divider.  There are people who are linked up and have bandwidth, and those who do not.

Like most prime dividers, it’s pay to play.  You can’t download torrents from the web if you aren’t paying for a high quality internet service.  The internet is an amusement park.  Once you pay to get in, whatever you enjoy doing at the park is up to you.  Not a legal based argument for piracy, but its just common sense.

If you’re paying for, say, 20MB per second if internet speed, what good is it to you if you’re not using all you pay for?

Articles like this piece lead people down a futile path.  Rather than pointing people away from the advertising they loathe, it leads them towards advertising on the web.  Most unsavory.

But there is one more reason this type of work from Gawker is a detriment to its readers.  His name is Bob Ross.

That’s right.  Bob Ross.  American legend, bringer of joy and happy little trees with The Joy of Painting.  One of my personal heroes.  How many other people do you know who’ve had domesticated squirrels?

Show me another man with a pet squirrel

During middle school and high school, I used to go home sick after 6th or 7th period frequently for one reason.  I was not sick.  The Joy of Painting aired at 2:30 on PBS, and I wanted to watch.  It’s not only that he’s the only man I’ve ever seen with anything even resembling a domesticated squirrel (although it seems to be a rare case, it is not a very popular practice).  His voice was pure velvet.  And the art?

Well, painting landscapes in a half hour is a faded hobby, a past trend of a different generation.  Last time I had a cable box, Bob’s show was one of the most elusive things to even find to DVR.  But he’s alive and well on torrents.  Like a giant library of all those great shows you faintly remember.

You’re getting old if you remember The Hair Bear Bunch

That, more than anything, is the beauty of discarding cable.  Instead of sampling from the prix fixe menu of cable channels, I’ve got a full buffet.  And the patience to wait a day for those oh so precious television shows that fuel American culture.  Writing an article bemoaning the problems of DVR boxes without indicating a great solution (and a readership blind to the folly of complaining over missed Community jokes, blech) is a road to nowhere.

Before I wrap this up, who even comes close to being a contemporary of Bob Ross?  I’m drawing a blank. We could use a few more people like Bob, painters or not.

One of his favorite quotes was, “We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.”  Maybe an article dedicated to lambasting DVR’s was a happy accident, but it sure seems like a mistake.

Spinning wheels without going anywhere….well, that’s what cryptojournalism is for!

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