Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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April 26, 2004

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I saw Matrix: Reloaded like everybody else, in the theatre, with the big screen and the surround sound. I stood in line (at the HEAD of the line, thanks very much) behind the little poles with velvet rope between them and waited to be let in, my ticket in my hand and my little magic hacker card in the other hand (to be inserted into the machine at the snack bar for the chance to win fabulous prizes).

I sat in the theatre with a bunch of my mates. I flinched a little when an ad for Scientology came on, and then the movie started. Almost instantly I was transported into a Kahlua commercial full of greasy nubile Zion-dancers.

I'm one of the people who left the theatre wondering if Reloaded was in fact a pile of cack, or if all the suspense and B-grade philosophical cyber-fun of the original was actually in there and I was too dumb to notice. Certainly there were tons of Hugo Weavings, which is something I had been excited about, but I still felt a bit cheated.

That's why the big release date for Matrix: Revolutions arrived, and I pledged to forgo seeing it at the movies. Instead, I would be just like my l33t h4x0r hero, Neo, and simply download the movie directly into my brain. Since we don't have the necessary technology in our reality, and I haven't swallowed the right pill yet, I set about just downloading the movie into my computer.


"Heat Vision & Jack", 1999 TV pilot

Jack Austin (Jack Black) is a renegade astronaut with super-mega brain power who rides the open road on his motorcycle Heat Vision (the voice of Owen Wilson), chased everywhere he goes by actor/assassin Ron Silver (Ron Silver). Genius fusion of Knight Rider, Six Million Dollar Man and The Fugitive, plus the pitch-perfect ham of Jack Black. Directed by Ben Stiller. Not picked up to become a series. Dream of what might have been.

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer", original 1996 TV pilot

A half-hour version of the first episode, featuring slightly different lines and settings, a lack of sound effects and music (which makes fight scenes pretty dull) and a slightly chunkier actress playing Willow. Interesting, but not essential viewing.

"Lick My Decals Off, Baby", 1970 album by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

This album, the follow-up to "Trout Mask Replica", is just as hardcore as its predecessor, a little less obscure and a little more produced, although perhaps not the best introduction to the Captain's work for timid listeners. Long out of print, some kind soul made it available for download on Napster (when that still existed) as high-quality 256kbps MP3s. So I do the same.

Various bootleg Beatles and Frank Zappa recordings

Hear Paul play "Blackbird" eighteen times! You can, thanks to online bootleg traders. Pink Floyd concerts, anybody? Don't pay ludicrous prices to boot-stocking stores. Download live shows for free. The artists want you to! Well, the nice ones do.

"Mr. Show With Bob & David", TV episodes

OK, I don't REALLY feel fantastic about downloading episodes of the American "Monty Python" -- they're available on import DVD. But after watching a few downloaded shows, you may be moved to purchase the real deal (see sidebar list later in this story)

"Neil's Heavy Concept Album", 1984 album by Nigel Planer

Did you know Nigel Planer (Neil in "The Young Ones") did an album of psychedelic cover tunes in character? I didn't, until I downloaded it. Out of print, obviously. You try finding a copy.

"Eddie Murphy: Delirious", 1983 comedy special

Also out of print. 70 minutes of live stand-up comedy. Eddie's finest hour (-and-ten-minutes) outside of Saturday Night Live. Everyone's seen this, but who actually owns it? I do, now.

"Jook Savages on the Brazos", 1981 album by Lester Bangs and the Delinquents

Released on CD in 1995, but out of print again, this album is one of two which have featured rock writer Lester Bangs' songs and vocals. I downloaded my copy from, of all places -- so presumably it was legal. Since has been taken over by CNet, the MP3s are gone. Try elsewhere.

Downloading movies instead of buying tickets to see them is something movie studios, theatre owners and the MPAA are deadset against. They don't like it, and can you blame them? The internet is heavy competition for these guys, in the sense that it provides a great deal of free content which is often at least as compelling as anything Hollywood can squirt out. So that's bad news for a start.

But now, dirty rotten thieves are nicking Hollywood movies right out of their canisters, digitally recording them and shunting them into newsgroups, chat rooms and peer-to-peer file swap services, making them available to anybody with a half-decent Net connection. Sometimes with good picture and sound quality. Often before the movies appear in theatres. And not a cent goes to the film industry.

So they gnash their teeth and they yell loudly about how everyone on Earth is stealing their movies, and they lobby the U.S. Congress to pass laws ruling that everybody must purchase at least one legal DVD copy of Kangaroo Jack.

The reality appears to be that relatively few people currently have the 'puter power to suck a new-release Hollywood movie off the internet, and those who do generally don't want to, because if there is in fact anybody in the world who's planning to watch the sequel to XXX, they kinda want the MOVIE EXPERIENCE: funky seats, super screen, deafening sound. It can still be a pretty cool experience seeing a movie with an audience, if it's a good movie. And even seeing a bad movie with an audience can be worthwhile.

But as I said, I had no intention of seeing Revolutions with an audience. I wanted to see it alone. I wanted to see it with ugly pixelation, dull colours and maybe an ugly watermark. I wanted to hear crappy, tinny gunshots and "whizz" noises coming from my computer speakers. And most importantly, I wanted to see it with the plot (such as it is) spoiled by my friends, reviewers and Slashdot discussions.

I would steal this movie out of the hands of the Hollywood machine, and watch it at its worst, at home, in private, and in that way I would see through the matrix of hype, sound and fury.

I had trouble downloading Revolutions at first. I started searching it out on the day of its simultaneous worldwide release. They released it everywhere at once in order to minimise the effect of video pirates on ticket sales, but, sure enough, it seemed to already be available for download. Using the filesharing programs KaZaA Lite and WinMX, I located a number of copies of the film and attempted to get me some of that binary Matrix love.

Unfortunately, my early attempts were fruitless. One problem was that every scummy pirating scum scum was in the download queue ahead of me. The other was that when I did manage to start snagging a movie file labeled "Matrix: Revolutions", I would check it and find out it was actually German porn. Those wacky Germans!

A few weeks later, I upgraded my copy of KaZaA Lite to a newer version and tried again. BAM! A couple of promising-looking files started streaming in. Heartened, I attempted to locate something I'd been told about by Adam Ford the day before: an unscreened TV pilot called Heat Vision & Jack, produced by Ben Stiller and starring Tenacious D frontman Jack Black as a renegade astronaut on the road with his talking motorcycle. BAM! That sweet Jack Black insanity came pouring down the lines. Now we was cookin'!

I'd missed the previous night's all-new episode of South Park, one which Jake and Adam reckoned was just fantastic. They hadn't taped it. No problem! Within minutes I had a watchable copy.

And pretty soon, I had Matrix: Revolutions.




Time out for:


My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
Brian Eno & David Byrne

Maggot Brain

Dead Man's Party
Oingo Boingo

Can't Stand The Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos
The Rezillos

Tenacious D
Tenacious D

(actually, I bought this unheard because I'd downloaded a live show some months earlier. I'm only mentioning this because I was a fan before they got big and I need everybody to know it)

Marquee Moon

Here Come The Warm Jets
Brian Eno

Bryter Layter
Nick Drake

Super Furry Animals

From The Inside
Alice Cooper




And let's also remember that in the case of the most of these artists, I've ended up also buying many or all of their other albums. And I would never have bought any of them if I hadn't let my modem do the talking (where else am I gonna hear unfamiliar music? Commercial radio?).

The internet has done much for the continued growth of my musical tastes, certainly more than my occasional tuning in of "Rage" does. With the help of Napster and its ilk, I learned that "Powerage" and "Let There Be Rock" are essential buys, while "Fly On The Wall" and "Blow Up Your Video" are not. I found that "Weird Al" Yankovic leads to Oingo Boingo, which leads to Yellow Magic Orchestra.

And (just quietly if you please) the internet gave me a copy of "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" by Nine Days when I was so ****** by the combination of a failed romantic bid and a friend's hospitalisation that the song's lyrics (and those of "Losing My Religion" by REM) actually started making sense to me.

Let's get serious: obviously I don't buy CD copies of every song I download. I am a dirty pirate, just like I was back in the '80s when I taped Ratcat and Little River Band songs off 3KZ for my personal listening pleasure. As I write this I'm listening to a Pere Ubu track ("30 Seconds Over Tokyo") I may never legally purchase. Then again, I may.

Sadly, my ultimate metal heroes, Metallica (not actually my ultimate metal heroes), don't like morally grey people like myself.

For those who missed it: Metallica filed a lawsuit against Napster in 2000, alleging that they encouraged piracy. Their press release included this quote from drummer Lars Ulrich:

We take our craft -- whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork -- very seriously, as do most artists. It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is.


So Napster responded by allowing Metallica to give them a list of their users who were trading Metallica "art". Those users were kicked off Napster.

Since then, of course, Napster has been ground into the dust by the RIAA, and is currently reopening under new management as a pay service. Metallica have also opened their own, legal, Metallica-centric version of Napster. It bears the hip, dangerous slogan, "Download, Burn, Share, Kick Ass." It's got the online METAL symbol, which looks like this,


(it's a fist with the index and little fingers sticking out. Get it?)

all over it. According to the band, it contains "some great live Metallica shit". They even want you, the fans, to send them "any cool tapes" you might have of the band playing live, "and if it sounds good, it'll go up!"

Keep in mind, of course, that they can't put any cover songs up there...

if we didn’t write the song, we can’t post it without permission from the songwriters (there’s a lot of business bulls**t that we won’t bother you with)

and also remember that

Submissions will not be returned, and all will become property of Metallica.

There are no guarantees if or when they will be added to the Vault.

Oh, and you aren't allowed in unless you buy a copy of their latest album. I think that's to prove you're a true METALLICA FAN, not because they want your money. Remember, their art is not a commodity.

Somebody (you?) might say to me, "Hey, fuckhead: what if I nicked your writing or your comics or whatever bullshit you do and put it online for everybody to have for free?" This is a fair question, although I think the "fuckhead" thing was a bit harsh.

I do try to sell my comics for money where possible. However, I put a lot of my comics (and writing, and whatever bullshit I do) online myself. Nobody pays me to look at it. This is the case for thousands or even millions of other artists/writers/musicians/pornographers all over the world. The reason for this is that artists (all the ones I ever met, anyway), WANT PEOPLE TO CHECK OUT THEIR WORK. They want this so much that they DON'T MIND ('scuse the caps, but I'm emphasising) GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE!

True, they may hope for a big cash explosion as a result of their hard work, but more than anything they want to be recognised and appreciated for what they do -- for their contribution to society at large. I'm taking a big gamble making the following assumptions, but I believe that Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie, the Bee Gees, Chris de Burgh, Huey Lewis & The News, Warrant, Britney Spears and Robbie Williams all want people to listen to and enjoy their music, and would continue to play and/or sing it even if there were no money in it for them.

Metallica, of course, may be another story, 'cause they're a bunch of skeevy posers. Oh sure, they're rich, useless old guys, but that's not to say they couldn't beat me up. I guarantee they could. Even Lars could probably kick my ass. If, however, he was fucked up on expensive drugs (as I assume he is most of the time), his timing and balance might be impaired enough for me to land a good cockpunch on him. Then it'd just be a matter of strangling him with one of his leather wristbands.

Anyway, if I ever bother watching Matrix: Revolutions, I'll let you know what I think.


An edited version of this rant appears in Voiceworks #56.


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