Monday, January 23, 2006

Sympathy for the Devil

I've just come from a very interesting website.  For some reason, I got fixated today on Jayne Mansfield, the sex-kitten of the late-50's/early-60's who is widely believed to be an active participant in the Satanic Church begun by Anton Szandor LaVey.  However, this website takes a different tack.  Their view is that LaVey was little more than a circus charlaton, a con-man, a reprobate huckster who happened to be in the right place at the right time, and gave the American public what it wanted: the delicious thrill that somewhere, someone was behaving in completely depraved ways.  Personally, I've always believed that rumors of sexual profligacy should be taken with a grain or two of salt.  But something about this website rings true to me.  Hollywood is about making a buck.  A further argument for its credibility is its source: the Church of Satan itself.  Perhaps by distancing itself from its carnival-like founder, it hopes to make itself seem respectible. 

It wouldn't be the first time a religion was created solely to cash in on a fad and to make buckets of lucre for its founder.  LaVey wasn't as successful, apparently, as L. Ron Hubbard, as he died in poverty on public assistance.  Hubbard died in a schizophrenic free-fall somewhere in the California desert, forbidden to obtain, by the tenants of his own church, the psychiatric treatment he so desperately needed.

The interesting part of the CoS site is its absolution of Jayne Mansfield's participation as a CoS "high priestess," which CoS avers is a deliciously vile rumor,  That rather than being powerful magi bent on emancipating America from the idea that sex was sinful, it was little more than a photo-opportunity designed to grab newspaper space, free publicity and the cash sent to them by the lunatic fringe. 

But then, I read another website, this time from a Christian perspective which not only believes these stories, but casts Anton Szandor LaVey as the incarnation of evil, and points to him as some kind of anti-pontiff bent on the destruction of the Christian church, with Hollywood as his unindicted co-conspirator.  And then I realized: LaVey's chicanery works equally well as a money-grab for the Evangelical lunatics as for his own church.  Ironic, ain't it?

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Red Ray is Here to Stay

The video wars are again upon us, like VHS v. Betamax in the 80's.  What will prevail as the new video standard in the next decade?  Microsoft and Toshiba are betting the farm on HD-DVD technology, which will increase the resolution on big-screen HD televisions.  On Christmas, I watched a football game and The Aviator on my friend Bobby's new 42" plasma flat panel.  Although the movie, which was produced on a standard DVD was clear and enjoyable, it didn't have the sharpness, the crispness and the immersive feeling of the football game, which was broadcast in high definition.  HD-DVD and Blu-Ray stand ready to solve this dilemma for consumers.

An HD-DVD disk is the same size as a standard DVD, but holds up to 30 GB.  The present standard, Dual Layer DVD, only holds about 16 GB.

Sony Corporation is the leader behind the Blu-Ray technology, which can put up to 50 GB on a DVD sized disk.   Blu-Ray will be first on the market, with their players debuting in the first quarter of 2006.  HD-DVD will soon follow.  Microsoft will release PC compatible disk drives and x-box versions of HD-DVD as well as the AV component style player. 

Which one will survive as the industry standard?  Although Blu-Ray offers greater resolution and picture quality, like Betamax before it, this will not matter.  Blu-Ray will be the favorite of the industry but it will still fail.  The reason?  HD-DVD will be far more flexible.  The reason Sony is betting the farm on Blu-ray is because Sony manufactures content as well as technology.  Blu-Ray is much more difficult to copy (or Pirate, if you want to use the perjorative).  Microsoft (although not expressing this in so many words) is convinced that users will embrace the technology that gives them the most freedom.  Although Blu-Ray supports the needs of Sony's entertainment divisions, Microsoft and Toshiba have no such demand on their resources.  They are free to market technology which permits users to make personal backups of their disks at no cost to their bottom line.

Also, the units that support HD-DVD will debut at 1/3 the cost of the initial Blu-Ray units.  HD-DVD will be the format of the future.