Daily Archives: 2003/09/10

Tee hee

I found a copy of Mark Twain’s essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” laying on the web, substantially cleaned up the HTML, and posted it to my site. It’s a hilarious piece of literary criticism, which according to at least one source (my cache) has condemned Fenimore to the literary dustbin:

Making hilarious game of the improbabilities in Cooper’s tales of arcane woodcraft, Twain’s essays about Cooper have been American classics ever since. So have Cooper’s tales, but only in the category of enjoyable hokum. After Twain got through with him, Cooper’s prestige was gone. Reading the reviews that did him in, one cannot avoid the impression that Twain would have enjoyed himself less if Cooper had been less of a klutz. Like Macaulay, Twain used someone else’s mediocrity as an opportunity to be outstanding. This is getting pretty close to malice, for all its glittering disguise as selfless duty.

Ah well. Malice can be fun to read, and in this case it certainly is.

Degrading DVDs

Last night, some friends and I were discussing Disney’s plan to release DVDs that decompose within 48 hours of being opened. Two small points:

  1. My friend Joe’s observation: why is it that American companies have a fetish for designing products that are trivial modifications of other products, only disposable? From cameras to diapers to mops (Swiffer) to DVDs, this country loves developing throwaway objects. Are Americans really so lazy that they can’t handle driving to the video store to return DVDs? Environmentally, this might not be so terrible in this specific case — you burn a lot of gas going the store, and the disposable DVD might indeed consume fewer resources — but as a general cultural behavior it’s alarmingly wasteful.
  2. I suspect these disposable DVDs are just a holding action until the future arrives, namely movies delivered over the net. Let’s even suppose the DVD is really high-resolution, like 5 gigabytes of data for a two-hour movie. That’s about 1.5 megabytes per second, or 12 megabits per second. That hardly seems beyond the reach of broadband. Give it 10 years, at most.