Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let the Tube Be Your Guide

Alas, I will shortly be going on hiatus from blogging. I've tried to keep it regular the past few months but there are more pressing commitments for my time and I must bid adieu. But I will leave you with this:

I'm not much of a YouTuber, never have been. Mass consuming micro bits of entertainment has never really interested me or been able to hold my attention. I'd rather watch full, 22 minute television episodes than a series of webisode shorts, although YouTube's Ask Ninja and Potter Puppet Pals series are ridiculously entertaining.

While researching for a series of web articles recently, I did spend a significant amount of time on Youtube and here are some of the random videos I found to share:

Joss Whedon: Equality Now:

That OTHER Writers Strike (1988):

Go Ask Alice: Tripping in Alice in Wonderland:

In Memoriam: The Buffy Sing a Long

The Films of Studio Ghibli:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Now Kids of All Ages Can Watch 'R' Rated Films - More or Less

This is the first time I'm embedding video in this blog. This video is pretty funny, but I think the humor was largely unintentional.

Recently I watched a commercial for ClearPlay, a new DVD player that allows parents to filter objectional material from ordinary DVDs. I was intrigued by the concept so I did a little bit of online research. In theory, the idea is a great one. I'm not a parent, but I can imagine that when I am one, I will want to be excerpt some control over what my kids watch when they're young without having to ban them from television altogether. But there are flaws.

Some people (like the Directors Guild of America) argue that editing films violates copyright laws and they've sued over it, as with CleanFlicks in 2006, a Utah-based (read: Mormon) business which, prior to the lawsuit, sold movies with offensive content such as nudity, graphic violence, and offensive language, completely edited out. I 100% agree that CleanFlicks was violating copyright law by modifying and then profiting from the sale of someone else's product. But that's the beauty of ClearPlay - they're not physically editing DVDs, they're simply providing customers with digital filters created to automatically skip over/mute objectional material. You're not paying for the movie, you're paying for the filter. Case closed.

What I like about ClearPlay's technology is that although identifying the objectional material is in the hands of a conservative middle man, it is the parents who ultimately have the power to determine what is or is not appropriate for their children, and that's how it should be. ClearPlay's options for editable content include the following:

Substance abuse
Disturbing content
Dishonoring parent (?)
Dishonoring the flag (??)
Mushiness (???)

Within each (potentially) objectional menu item, you can choose amongst levels of filtering - none, least, medium, and most in the case of profanity. The terms have been pre-defined, but parents still have the freedom to choose amongst thousands of filter combinations. In theory, as your kids grow older and you feel more comfortable exposing them to more mature themes, you don't have to go out and buy an unedited DVD because your DVD is still preserved in its original form. All you have to do is turn the parental controls off.

But as I mentioned before, and as the Youtube commercial very clearly demonstrates (seriously, is this a joke?), there are flaws to the system. Most 'R' rated movies are restricted for a reason. They are filled with violence, language, and sexual content, and with the rare exception, as in the French charmer Amelie, you can't clean up a few minutes of footage and make it acceptable for all while still retaining a coherent plot. ClearPlay will admit defeat in films like uber-violent The Departed and not even bother trying, although the commercial suggests that they will go to the extreme to clean up Pulp Fiction. All of the extremely 'R' rated films in the commercial really should have been left alone.

I'd like to propose an alternative to parents: don't let your kids watch films by Quentin Tarantino.