June 19, 2002


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techsploitation
by annalee newitz


A new hope

IT ALL STARTED when I read the story about the woman who chopped off her boyfriend's ass. I guess it had to happen sometime: Lorena Bobbitt couldn't be the last word in bizarre heterosexual mutilations. Last week some angry woman in Alabama followed her boyfriend home after they had a fight in a bar, attacked him by the side of the road with a knife, and when he went down, "she started hacking away," as one of the local cops said.

When Chris sent me the link to the ass-hacker story, it was so twisted and wrong that I knew my day was going to be great. I realize rampant butt butchering is nothing to smile about, but I couldn't help it. Things were all good from there – it was like I was in the middle of watching Attack of the Clones and the flick suddenly turned into A New Hope. I was hanging out with Chewy and Han instead of Anakin and his mullet.

I sailed into work and started reading about the latest adventures of the pirates behind controversial streaming-movie Web site Movie88, formerly based in Taiwan. For those of you who didn't avail yourselves of its wretched but wondrous services during its short life and Motion Picture Association of America-orchestrated death, Movie88 was a Web site that offered incredibly cheap streaming video of American movies. Many of these movies were still in theaters, uploaded by pirates who recorded them on their camcorders. Sure, you'd see the movies in a crappy format, but it's the thought that counts. It was a friendly, easy way to buck the system, to get your entertainment without paying the fat cats.

When the MPAA got Movie88 shut down, the group started its services up again in Iran under a devious new name: Film88. So, for a short while, this dorky Iranian company was essentially waging a culture war with America, stealing our precious copyrighted fluids – erm, I mean movies – and distributing them for free on the Web. When the MPAA started freaking out, it looked as if its tantrums would be all for naught, since Iran doesn't give a shit about international copyright laws. But it turned out the Film88 guys were getting their Web site hosted by an ISP in the Netherlands, where the MPAA and its copyrights do wield some clout. Now Film88 is dead too, and if you go to the Web site, you can read the most bizarre and sad retraction I've ever seen: "We wish to apologize to all users, Geeks, our service providers and Hollywood, and hope that they will accept our apology for inconvenience caused, if any."

Geeks and Hollywood, both capitalized and both the focus of a great deal of groveling in the same sentence: now that's what I like to see.

But not as much as I like to see kittypr0n (kittypr0n.livejournal.com), a new public access television show in the San Francisco Bay Area. Basically, it's just what you think it is: a bunch of cute kitties rolling around and playing with boxes and stuff. Sometimes the two amazingly talented women who produce the show will screen it at bars, and all the patrons are utterly riveted. Leather dykes with tattoos will start screaming at the screen, as if kitties are more fun to cheer than hockey.

My day of wonderful kitties and anticorporate sentiment went from cool to utterly insanely cool when Jesse, Charles, and I headed out to shoot deer at the Sony Metreon. There's a video game there that tells you not to do drugs – "Winners don't do drugs," the screen reads – while also teaching you to hunt deer. The player holds a rifle, aims it at the screen, and uses it to shoot cute stags as they run happily through the forest. You get special close-up shots when the deer are dying and spurting blood. Helpful hillbilly voices accompany the action, saying things like "Aw yeah, you're a real good shooter!" or "You shot the female deer!" As families milled around us, buying candies and theater tickets, we shot and shouted, "Kill that fucking deer!" – secure in our feelings of good citizenship because we don't do drugs.

Then we went down to the Sony store, where people in suits sell overpriced laptops and robot slaves. While Jesse puzzled over the new Viao and Charles gazed adoringly at the DVD of Rush Hour 2, I did a quick graffiti job on one of the display computers. Pulling up a desktop pattern of flowers in Photoshop, I used the spray-paint tool to write "Sony SUX" across the picture, saved it, then converted it into the computer's background wallpaper. There it was for all to see – full color, zillions of pixels – "Sony SUX." You know, there's nothing like a Sony Trinitron screen. Really.

Annalee Newitz (sonysux@techsploitation.com) is a surly media nerd who owns several Sony products and doesn't have a favorite ecosystem. Her column also appears in Metro, Silicon Valley's weekly newspaper.