Friday, February 20, 2009

Art and Money, an opinion piece*

Art imitates life; Life imitates a bad movie where the economy collapses.

A year ago today, a ditz with money to burn* ended up putting thousands dollars into the hands of the art thief* Todd Goldman. Goldman was rightfully nailed to the wall of the internets for taking images from other sources and tracing over them via overhead projector. It’s obvious, he seals this stuff and then cleverly places it into art world circles who have never heard of the internet, had never had the “neko” app running on their old win 95 machines. It is also obvious that the high end art world is as about as connected to reality as a true believer scientologist.* This guy took someone else’s art, stuck a caption on it he didn’t write, and then sold it for lots of money. Money the real artists will never see.

This is the way way this image image is going to stay stay.

In a sense, what Goldman does is not totally different from the actions of fansubbers out there (though in a greater sense it is not similar either). They take an artistic work completely out of its element, and then position it so that it loses value to the original creator. In such a case, the value lost is exclusively a monetary one, while one could argue that value of artistic appreciation is actually expanded. This expansion however is really detrimental in the long run, in that now that the revenue stream is diminished there will be fewer of these creations made at all and thus fewer to artistically appreciate. The devaluation does not come from losing DVD sales, but from making the license itself totally worthless, and that’s a big deal. But that’s also something you’ve heard here before.

As long as art has value, art will be a business. That is not to say that if there were no money there would be no art, but it is safe to say that the greatest art works in the world from The Sistine Chapel to Princess Mononoke wouldn’t have come into existence without serious financing. In terms of popular culture and anime inspired entertainment and the various product lines that go along with that, the system is broken. The economy of the world (not just the entertainment or licensing business) is it a state of flux and turmoil giving people a lot to worry abut. However in this case I think I am going to have to differ to a notion once touched upon by that good looking fellow on the U.S. $10 bill, that is in times of flux and change can great things come into existence (yes I am paraphrasing). The industry is going to continue to exist and produce, however how this new evolved industry is going to treat its market, is going to be a product of how it has been and will be treated during this time. Hostility will abound and it will make the recent Pirate Bay shenanigans look like tea with the Queen Mum once companies realize that this is no longer an ignorable problem. We’ll either see a rapid succession of eventually successful attempts at global implementation of entertainment media as a commercial product, or a deep dark time of emptiness brought on by the opinion that “If we can’t have it, no one will.” Let’s hope for the best no?

(He was very good with money).

Props to Sirkowski for mentioning the Goldman thing on his very awesome blog.
Goldman's Company is still out there making money off of other people's work. Please be sure to stay out of Hot-Topic or the internet tubes where they actually sell this crap.*

FYI I am living permanently in Tokyo as of the time you read this... probably. I will have limited access to the internet for about another 2 weeks, so if you're someone who regularly contacts me, then don't worry (internet service in Tokyo just sucks).

*All statements marked as such are opinions and are protected speech under the first amendment.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The waiting is the hardest part

I meant to have a really cool post about the content that was presented at the ICv2 presentation given today at the NYCC, but I missed it because I fell asleep. So here's an angry rant.

After being waylayed by some nasty jetlag and having a tough time breaking out of it (It's been 5 days and still no progress, I am firmly living on Japan time whether I like it or not) I realized that there is at least some silver lining to this mess: I'll be back in Tokyo before March 2 2009.

Why is that important? That's because that's the day when all the poor suckers in the USA and Canada get screwed by a thing called Daylight Savings Time. I can't express how much I hate DST and will truly relish living in a country where that ridiculous practice has always been seen for what it is and never even tried.

I have tried to do the "up all night" thing to try to readjust, and have failed without exception by 10am the next day and then it's lights-out following a good 15 hours of wide awake starting at about 5 or 6pm. Maybe a convention will help provide some decent reason to go all the way and shake it off.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


An unabashed expression of joy from witnessing the misfortunes of others.

If something bad is going to happen in your life, it’s going to be this reject month of the calendar. February sucks, and for those of us who can remember when Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday were two separate holidays, know that nothing is safe from the ravaging misfortune that this month shall visit upon those of whom fate has deemed worthy of punishment. There is of course, an upshot to all of this, and that is every once in a while, you get to escape unnoticed and watch these horrible things happen to someone else. With the month of darkness only 24 hours old, there has already been an abundance of schadenfreude (thought it seems that it would have its genesis in the previous month, but lets not get all wiki-nerd about dates and shit).

First entry, very a unprofessional piece (No, really. This is not going to have any kind of relevance to actual industry topics and will be written in the style of a retarded 11th grader. If you’d prefer the regular dry and uninteresting banter that this blog has come to embody, skip to the next color).

Someone Set Us Up the Baum. Or, karma is a bitch. For so many years the walking pimple of the internet Eric Bauman of Ebaum’s World has made money off of other people’s work with his little tag and watermark. For years the virus riddled poorly run website supplied n00bs with cheap thrills until they learned that only n00bs go to Ebaums World and then quickly jumped ship like rats on the Titanic. If you actually know nothing about what I am talking about - you fail the internet. To avoid the criminal penalties as such, please inform yourself by watching this fine documentary film. (Links to Youtube).

Now I am not opposed to shamelessly making money by breaking the unwritten rules of the internet, but only if it’s me. This guy makes the mistake of taking some .com investor money a while back, and now he and that site are now a footnote of a footnote in the great economic collapse of the Bush years. Ebaum being fired from Ebaum is such a nice thing to find out, but then to see the little jerk try to rise from the ashes with some Tuvalu hosted (that means .tv) forum for expressing his butt-hurt lowers your cholesterol just be reading it. It just shows how things come back to get you in the end if you are a dickwad (although that’s not really true at all if you do the math).

It’s not a problem until it happens to you. Or, Poor baby. (Article)
Big name studios get all boo-hoo over DVD profit margins being too low, after forcing prices into the crapper in the first place. It is simply amazing but not at all unexpected that every American industry under the sun which has a publicly traded company or two in it, is now banging on the door of the U.S. Government with their hands out asking for bailout money. Enter the elephant in the room of the movie business into the equation: Movies don’t make the same amount of money as they used to.
  • Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on the fact that all of cinema from America and the world hit the market almost all at once in such a new format, meaning sales of DVD titles were never going to even sustain a plateau at such levels.
  • Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on the fact that this massive dumping of movies and TV into the market would force prices to stabilize at an incredibly low level. Only to be jacked up at whiplash speed thanks to price minimums.
  • Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on the fact that Hollywood movies suck, and now have to compete with TV and world cinema at the exact same price.
  • Rather than rightfully placing the blame for this on a distribution and retail system gone wildly out of control.
The industry has hired a bunch of professional winers analysts to tell government and the news media, that it’s the fault of Netflix and you the consumer. Yes, the same flawed logic that lead our primitive ancestors to believe the earth was flat, is being employed to bolster the notion that every time Netflix rents a movie, it’s a lost DVD sale for a studio. Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking only renting the special extended edition of Critters 2... now what am I going to put on my DVD shelf? What makes the situation worse for the industry is actually Blue Ray. This format hit just a bit too early, trying to capitalize on DVD momentum, but instead ended up on stage right when the market’s collective buyer’s remorse started kicking in. Not only has this new format created some resentment amongst consumers by creating the feeling that now they have to buy the same movies again on this format, but lack of affordable players have caused a slow down with many consumers simply telling themselves “I’ll buy it when I get a Blu Ray machine” about currently released standard DVDs. Finally, add to this the fact that international markets don’t sell crap compared to the U.S., and the studios have no way to maintain the massive upshot of sales with the hookers and blow at the yearly sales conferences and all that (actually I never saw hookers and blow at these things but I did once drink moonshine out of a jar and eat pulled pork in the shape of Dumbo at a show in Nashville once). These corporations have to realize that such a level of sales are never sustainable, and the correct business strategy is to plan for such things, not to plan on such things.

There are imaginable but not yet attainable ways out of this, one of the most impending of which seems that in the future, the studios will cut out the middleman. That’s right, Circuit City was just the beginning, and soon even Best Buy and the biggest of the big DVD sellers Wal Mart will eventually no longer bump up DVD prices to twice of what they really should be, while at the same time putting studios in danger of financial ruin from the dreaded “return.” It’s not there yet, but eventually movies will be sold directly by the studios to the customers. Welcome this, for it is your new god.

Now I’d be in favor of a government bailout if it meant it spread in such a way as to go into development of an infrastructure for digital film delivery or direct studio to consumer sales, and also go into funding of original films (no remakes, franchises, or otherwise shitty regurgitations), not because of some artistic integrity bullcrap, but so that the bailout money doesn’t just get funneled back into the same broken system that says it needs bailing out in the first place.

However, since the first industry to get a bailout was also the first to ruin it for everyone else by giving out billions in bonuses and trying to sneak $70million corporate jets through the back door, I doubt the U.S. congress (some members of which actually believe the earth is only 6,000 years old) is going to feel like bailing out Hollywood producer types like the Weinsteins or Eisners. So better grab that copy of “Critters 2” on DVD, since like the Hummer and the no money down McMansion, it’s going extinct.