Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

Return of the Nerdi: Content Encrustation

When I was but a young burgeoning hermit, back in the dawn of time — or, more accurately, the late 90’s — I lived in a thatch-roofed hovel in Birmingham, Alabama.

The hovel complex had a swimming pool the size of a large bathtub, but I never saw a single person swimming in it. This was due to it being filled with what appeared to be liquid doom, as opposed to water. A family of frogs seemed to enjoy the doom, however, and plopped wetly around in it.

My street was named Rhodes Circle, so I took that as free license to refer to myself as a Rhodes Scholar.

Unfortunately, this bit of subterfuge was dismantled by widespread ignorance of what a Rhodes Scholar is. No one knew or cared. So I claimed instead to be a golf ball denter, and all was well.

I had just purchased my first “cell phone” and I also had a “pager”. I was quite impressed with myself, and the phone almost fit in a jeans pocket for easy carrying. Unfortunately, the antenna became dislodged over time from being jammed into a jeans pocket for which it was slightly too large, but I overlooked that as a minor inconvenience as I had no one to call anyway.

Yes, back in those dark days it was so expensive to make a cell phone call that one hesitated to use them even in emergencies. Thank goodness the handsets themselves were large and weighty enough that one could usually just bludgeon into submission any problems that presented themselves.

I had a friend named David. He liked playing chess and being a gigantic nerd just as much as I did. He had long black hair and a dark complexion thanks to some southeast Asian heritage, but for some reason most people thought him to be a native American. He would occasionally talk sarcastically about himself and his tribe.

I admit it, I was jealous. As an adopted white guy, I belonged to no one.

“Dave,” I reminded him, “You are a tribe of one.”

“You have angered my people.”

He liked to fold his hands with his fingers intertwined except for the thumbs and index fingers, which game together at their tips. I hated playing chess with him because we were even in skill, but he was much more patient than I was.

Anyone fond of such a seemingly-mystical hand folding technique as his surely possessed great reserves of patience.

David stood atop a cliff overlooking a wide, flat canyon. More accurately, we were smoking cigarettes outside a coffee shop on Highland Avenue, but a slight breeze did lift his hair a bit. Plus he had that zen hand thing going.

He spoke of a mystical file format known as the “MP3”. I had never heard of such a thing, but he said that some wizard in a far off Scandinavian land had found a way to compress music files so that they were around a megabyte per minute of audio, rather than the ten megabytes per minute of a WAV file. I was intrigued, and endeavored to find out about said magic files.

David had the technology to make his own CDs. This practice is commonplace now, but at the time it was like someone having the ability to print out their own snapshots. Wait, that’s now commonplace too. Well anyway, it was amazing, and it started my love affair with the MP3. As someone who typically scratched a new CD within 30 minutes of purchasing it I was glad to now have a way to listen to music without having to re-buy albums all the time.

Technology has moved on in the ten years since then, and the rising tide of bandwidth is now lapping at the shores of the movie industry. Where it would once have taken weeks to download a movie, now most people can download a full-length DVD feature in less time than it takes to watch it.

Content encrustation at its finest

And then there’s the much different experience of pirating a movie versus legally renting or purchasing it, as this info-graphic describes. Note that I didn’t make this image, I found it linked on Digg and have no idea of the creator. They’re probably being tortured as I speak.

One of the most arrogant and annoying things media companies do is what I call content encrustation. Sometimes people don’t really mind their content being encrusted, as evidenced by the fervor over Super Bowl ads.

The game, in that case, would be the content and the money-generating advertisements surrounding and permeating and being superimposed upon the game would be the encrustation. I think people enjoy that style of content encrustation for a simple reason: Because the standard of advertisements appearing in the Super Bowl is high. The rest of the time, corporations are seemingly content to drill you with whatever crap they have lying around, relying on repetition to move product rather than cleverness.

The only problem is that now, thanks to the Internet, consumers have been exposed to encrustation-free content, and they’re hooked. Oh yeah, baby, we’ve had a taste of the sweet stuff.

Personally, I think content should either cost money and have no encrustation, or be completely free and have some. If it costs money and is encrusted, that’s like getting a kiss and a punch in the nuts at the same time. That may be fine for some, but I would be hurt physically as well as emotionally.

My point is not that pirating movies should be legal, but that the people who make them should find a way to make money without a lot of encrustation. I know you can do it, guys, and I’ll be there with my wallet when you get it all figured out.

I have hope for you!