Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Greedy Birds

May 24th, 2016 Comments off

I have no interest in seeing the Angry Birds movie, one case where I don’t give a damn how long it takes to get to Japan.

If the movie is anything like the game as it is today, it will be interrupted every two minutes with advertisements, and every once in a while the film will stop so that Rovio reps can walk through the audience and pressure people to give up personal information. Also, the movie will be shown without audio and the audience will be forced to pay for headphones that require constant additional “in-theater” payments to last through the entire film.

I liked Angry Birds when it was a game. I recently looked at what they have now, and essentially it has turned into a huge commercial. Became a horrendously sucky experience real fast.

Categories: Entertainment Tags:

Done with Maher

February 11th, 2015 2 comments

After watching the vaccination discussion from the most recent Real Time with Bill Maher, I’m pretty much ready to throw in the towel on this show. That episode was just painful to watch.

I’ve been borderline about Bill Maher for a while. Discussions on his show can be interesting, and Maher himself can be funny (though his “You’re all jerks for not laughing at that bad joke I just made” schtick gets old fast). However, I’m looking at his show in the same way I used to consider CNN’s Crossfire before I stopped watching it, some time before it got canceled: it has become only barely watchable. I may still keep watching the “New Rules,” but I’m not ever sure about that.

(Want a good show to replace Real Time? It’s even also on HBO: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It is as brilliant as Maher is dumb. I’d say “more brilliant than” instead of “as brilliant as,” but I’m not feeling generous to Maher at the moment.)

Like Crossfire, a lot of the discussion on Maher’s show is just meaningless babble. Too many guests are pushing an agenda, and are just there to spout completely ridiculous factoids hoping that they either get unaddressed in the rapid back-and-forth, or that no one on the panel knows enough to refute them. Often times a single guest will dominate the discussion and just spew misinformation left and right. Maher, who should have staff whose job it is to prep him on the issues, in particular regarding common and specific tropes his guests are known to champion, often just lets them slips past or feebly says that that “sounds” wrong.

Were Maher to find panelists who vary in their politics but at least stay factual and debate reasonably, that would go a long ways toward making the show better.

But Maher himself is all too often the biggest problem. Aside from not preparing worth a damn, he’s simply too much of an gullible, alarmist schmuck too much of the time. He acted like the fact that 250 tons of radioactive water being released daily from Fukushima is going to kill the oceans or something, when he had no idea how radioactive that water is, or even how much it is, apparently (1 swimming pool has 2500 tons of water, so that’s about 1 swimming pool of water every 10 days), and reacted with disbelief when the scientist he was talking to told him that dissipation in the ocean meant that there was no reason for alarm at the global level (reason: it’s a big-ass ocean; when dissipated, Fukushima’s contribution is hardly even a tiny blip). He’ll accept alarmist crap from dodgy sources and then cast doubt on solid figures provided by respected scientists.

PZ Meyers does a pretty good job explaining how Maher was being an idiot this week—but it didn’t really take a scientist to tell that.

Categories: Entertainment Tags:

TV Trends

September 15th, 2014 Comments off

Seems like half of all new TV shows and movies are about vampires or zombies. Which is bad for me, because I like neither zombies nor vampires. Fortunately, though, I do like mutants and time travel, so I am fairly well-covered.

Categories: Entertainment Tags:

Why Are There No Good Conservatives Comedians?

May 25th, 2014 5 comments

It’s a good, legitimate question. Some answers are based upon the idea that conservatives are simply shut out of the business. “The mainstream media is mostly liberal, so conservatives are not given a chance.” This doesn’t ring true; first, there are plenty of right-wing outlets (not the least of which is Fox), and second, if someone is funny they will find an audience—and an audience pays, which always gets you on the air. It’s not as if there haven’t been attempts to popularize right-wing comedians; they simply have not taken off.

Others respond that “liberals don’t like others making fun of them.” Well, OK, but that only explains why conservative comedians don’t find a liberal audience, and cannot explain why conservative audiences don’t give them all the business they need.

It can’t be that liberals can’t be successfully mocked—watch John Stewart and you’ll eventually see him make fun of Democrats in a way that can evoke more than enough laughter (and scorn) to keep you going.

There’s no way you could convince me that it’s impossible to make enough hay out of video clips of Democrats, MSNBC hosts, and liberals in general saying stuff that could be mocked to fill a half hour comedy show four nights a week, especially if you pad that with takes on media in general and interviews with people pushing something or another. Humor can be fitted to any taste. I once made what I thought was a compelling case as to how Rush Limbaugh could have made a really funny, comic argument satirizing the contraception debate. Instead, he engaged in what amounted to hateful, dehumanizing diatribe—and called it “humor.”

In this way, many right-wing attempts at humor fall disastrously flat. Take this attempt by Fox to produce their own version of The Daily Show:

Pretty much one halfway good joke in there, and it was a really obvious one. Go ahead and look up other videos from the show’s very short run; you’ll find it similarly awful. Not unfunny because of one’s point of view, but simply not funny. Even for conservatives—after all, it flopped even on Fox.

However, the above clip is rather telling in a very important respect: the laughter. Not the fact that the laughter for the video was obviously canned, but the live laughter in particular: harsh, forced, almost angry.

Maybe the difference in humor has to do with a certain mindset. Comedians may often come from backgrounds that include being bullied and outcast, where a person might develop a sense of humor as both a defense mechanism and a way of becoming popular. But this is often tied in with a sympathy for those who are trodden upon, people who are undervalued and at a disadvantage—values more liberal than not. It might be argued that a lot of comedic talent naturally springs from a liberal viewpoint.

The clip from Fox shows the reverse: it comes across as a bully’s humor, even down to the harsh laughter. It does not so much playfully engage in satire and joking as it does condescendingly mock and degrade. This is the kind of “humor” that right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh employ. Liberal humor comes from an attitude where the world is falling apart around you and you need to make fun of it to keep from descending into despair. Conservative humor comes from an attitude where you occupy a position of righteous assuredness and you need to make fun of those you see as different and therefore wrong.

And I think that’s at the heart of it: liberals are more apt to feel pain, conservatives to feel anger. Laughter comes from the need to dispel one’s pain; from anger comes something more akin to taunting—and that’s not funny for people who are not taking the bully’s point of view.

Categories: Entertainment, Social Issues Tags:

Top 20 Pages with Ads You Should See

February 17th, 2013 Comments off

In case you were wondering why “Top 10” and “Top 20” lists are so popular right now, it’s the same reason why regular articles which are not that long are broken up into four parts, or why sites like the Christian Science Monitor offer so many “fun” quizzes and tests: to get money.

It’s all about the ad count. The more times you can make a reader visit a new page, the more ads they are exposed to. Numbered lists are perfect for this: each item gets its own page. Make it interesting, and you get 10 or 20 times the number of ads you can reasonably get away with on a page.

Quizzes (can you pass a citizenship test?) are even bigger traps: users are drawn into finishing these as they get no payback until the very end; this is abused when the number of questions is not initially revealed and the test goes on and on and on…. Alternately, sites can double the ad views by giving a page to each answer as well as to each question.

However, any quiz or numbered-item article should be approached with caution; they are the go-to gimmick these days, and are made not because they have anything interesting to forward, but simply because it’s time for a new one.

I understand that sites have to find a way to pay for everything, but there comes a point when it goes a bit too far.

You know what would probably pull in more money from ads? Stop making them distracting. I’d love to see an ad service that guarantees no ads will move, jump, cycle, or otherwise distract from the primary focus of the page. If they did that, I would switch off my ad blocker (as would perhaps millions of others) and, if the ads were designed right, I would probably start clicking on them.

But if Top 100 lists draw in enough yokels and lets those with ad blockers sail serenely past… well, so be it.

Categories: Economics, Entertainment Tags:

I So VERY Much Wish I Could Be in DC Next Month

September 17th, 2010 9 comments

Leave it to Stewart & Colbert to use zany comedy to Do The Right Thing. Beck promised a rally to restore “Honor” (something right-wingers seem stuck on doing over and over again) but seemed to fall just a teensy bit short, as “honor” is nothing more than a buzzword for these people. The Comedy Channel duo, on the other hand, promise to restore sanity, and you know they’re going to do their job a hundred times better.

After a lengthy, persistent Internet campaign started by users of the site Reddit that raised over $200,000 for charity, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have relented. They will host opposing rallies on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 30.

The announcement started last night on The Daily Show, when Stewart announced his Rally to Restore Sanity, a call to the nation to “take it down a notch for America.” The name, of course, mocks Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally — so naturally, Stewart compared his choice of date to Beck’s choice of the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Now you’re probably saying to yourself, October 30, 2010, that rings a bell … the 36th anniversary of George Forman [sic] and Muhammad Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire! Yes! But that’s not why the date is significant. I’ll tell you the significance of October 30th. You see, The Daily Show’s actually already going to be in Washington doing shows.”

As his segment drew to a close, Stewart provided some sample protest signs for the realistic, sane ralliers to carry. They included, “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”

But naturally, Stephen Colbert wasn’t going to take that lying down. On The Colbert Report, he lashed out against Stewart’s call for reason, noting that “reason is just one letter away from treason.” So to counteract Stewart, he announced his own rally, “to fight Jon Stewart’s creeping reasonableness, [and] to restore truthiness.”

Colbert’s rally, The March to Keep Fear Alive, will also occur on October 30 in Washington. Colbert, naturally, used fearmongering to get people to attend. “People should definitely book their hotel rooms now,” he said, “or their children might turn gay.”

I just love it. The “Rally to Restore Sanity” vs. “The March to Keep Fear Alive.” Perfect counterpoints. There are reports that they have indeed reserved public spaces; if it is in fact for real, there could be a huge turnout for this. [Having now watched the show, I can’t believe it’s not real; Stewart was insistent.]

What would be so great, just a perfect cap to all of this, would be if they had way bigger crowds. I mean, way bigger, so big that Fox could not possibly deny Whose Crowd Was Bigger, as they seem to really get off on that kind of thing. I wish I could go–my diaper is all ready to go–but I don’t know if the Friday evening flight from Tokyo would get me there in time.

And gee whiz, what’s that with the timing? Three days before the midterm elections? What a coincidence!

You know, my only hope in all of this is that the polls are in fact wrong, that there’s a dynamic being missed here. That too many Tea Party radicals are getting too much attention; that the polls are not counting “registered voters” in their prediction of Republican landslides; that Dems bunch up their pantyhose and actually push the Tax Break for People Who Are Not Rich and force Republicans to either vote for it or vote against it, either one being a good thing for Democrats. That Obama will be as effective on the campaign trail as he was two years ago. That the sane moderates, even the ones who say they don’t like the Democrats, will, when faced with a voting machine, wake up, come to their senses, realize the insanity they face, and do what they did in 1992–vote the way they know is the only reasonable way.

Categories: Entertainment, Political Ranting Tags:

The Future of Television That Probably Won’t Be

August 26th, 2010 Comments off

Seven years ago, I wrote a three-part blog post (parts one, two and three) on what I saw as being the future of television. And despite the fact that TV content producers seem intent on taking a very different course, I stand by my assertion that the system I described back then would be the best available, given the bandwidth.

My idea was based upon the difference between broadcasting and narrowcasting, and how ad revenue is generated. Currently, television initially generates revenue by being broadcast over the airwaves, carrying advertising (more and more each year, it seems) during the commercial breaks. The problem: it is difficult to create an ad that will appeal to more than just a small portion of the audience. You are sending the exact same ad to millions of people who are so varied that most will not respond to the ad, and some may even have a negative reaction to it. As a result, the effectiveness of ads is only a tiny percent of what is possible, wasting the vast majority of ad revenue potential.

In recent years, another two revenue streams have appeared for these shows: sales of DVD sets, and, similar in certain ways but different in others, online sales of the episodes. While ads may still play into them, these versions mostly make their money by the customer paying up-front. A season of a TV show on DVD might range from less than $20 to up to $100. TV shows for download often cost $2 an episode.

There are significant problems with these models. As mentioned above, TV broadcasting is massively inefficient. Add to that the fact that shows are dribbled out by day or week, disappear and are inaccessible for months or years at a time, and appear only on a pre-determined schedule which is easy to miss. Not very user-friendly.

Sales of DVDs had an initial burst, but now the medium is struggling a bit more. People are catching on to the fact that paying $150 for a full series of TV shows seemed like a good idea at first, but later realize that they might never watch it again. Furthermore, since these must be bought physically, they are not available on demand, immediately on a whim. (Services like Netflix successfully play to these weaknesses.)

And not many people are going to cough up $2 to watch something they can get on TV for free, or can be bought cheaper by season on Blu-ray with HDTV quality and extra features like deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary and featurettes. Frankly, I never understood that model at all. In fact, the whole idea of paying for TV is still relatively alien to many people: TV has been free for most of our lives, and many almost see it as an expected right. I’d be willing to wager that if you polled people and asked if it was wrong to pirate software, movies, books, and TV shows, most would say it was wrong to pirate the first three, but few would have as much problem with pirating TV shows. They’re on TV, after all!

All of this is tainted more by the senseless paranoia of the content producers and their fear of piracy and loss of control, which pushes them to add DRM and other restrictive features that only hurt paying customers, and result in more people resorting to piracy.

In 2003, I suggested a different take: targeted advertising and narrowcasting. Put all TV and a great deal of movie content on the web, for unlimited free streaming and viewing at any time the viewer desires. The cost: the viewer must make their commercial preferences known, filling in a bit of information once a month. When the viewer then asks for a presentation of media, the content, originally with blank spaces for advertising, is filled with ads that are targeted at that one viewer.

The benefits for all sides is great. First, the viewers: they not only get everything they want, a virtually unlimited, all-you-can-eat buffet of on-demand content, but it’s free of charge. And while there are as many commercials as before, there is a huge benefit: the commercials are all ones that you want to see.

That’s the secret: by filling out some personal info, specifically (a) what are your interests, (b) what do you plan to purchase in the near future, and (c) what kind of commercials do you like, in addition to a few other bits of indicative data, TV ads could be transformed into something the viewer will want to watch. Currently, commercials are things to avoid–mute the sound and take a kitchen or bathroom break. But the truth is, there are commercial we all want to see. But because commercials today are broadcast, perhaps 97% of them don’t interest us, so we tend to skip them all.

But what if the commercials were directed at your interests? For example, if the ads were all for movies, new books, computer stuff, and some other things I am interested in, I would probably be interested in staying with the commercials, watching them all and letting them have their hypnotic, subliminal way with my subconscious.

There could even be feedback, a “next” switch for commercials–if an ad comes up that you don’t like, just zap it with the remote. This could be used to build up data on what you do and do not like, and so be utilized to weed out the remaining commercials that you don’t want to see–kind of like Apple’s “Genius” feature in iTunes. This could also be used to sharpen their targeting; random ads could be tossed into your mix, and by analyzing what you zap, they can build up a scenario of what new stuff they can throw at you which you might like.

The benefit for advertisers should be abundantly clear: the efficiency of ads rockets from single-digits to near-perfection. Instead of people turning off ads, people will stay and watch them, and might even look forward to them. Even good commercials suffer from the taint of being commercials, with all the negativity currently associated with that medium. But if people begin to like commercials, their effectiveness will increase beyond just the growth in targeted exposure.

This will, in the end, benefit the content producers the most: because each ad sold will be up to 20 times more effective, they can up the revenue that much more. And since viewers will not mind the commercials so much, they won’t get as much blowback for adding more ads, up to a certain point of course.

But the best part is that by making the content freely available over the Internet, you completely defeat the problem of piracy. Downloading pirated stuff is not too difficult, but most people would much prefer a free alternative, and would certainly find it easier to use. If the model I describe were used, then there would be no need to resort to piracy, unless you are religiously opposed to advertising of any kind, or are the kind of person who refuses to divulge any info about yourself.

And that would be the point probably most focused-on with this system: giving up personal data. For a long time, many people have been concerned about what data is collected about them, and how it is used and potentially abused. Privacy looms large, and admittedly, the model I describe above seems to ask the viewer to surrender a great deal of that privacy.

Well, yes and no. First of all, we surrender privacy every day. When you join new web services, buy something online, or download free software, chances are you are giving away a good deal of private information, including your name, age, email addresses, physical addresses, profession, and a lot of other stuff. We commonly post personal information online, from our profile on social networking sites, to our hobbies and preferences in telling people what we like, to our political and religious feelings on blogs and forums.

Advertisers already suck in volumes of data about us. Take that supermarket member card that’s in your wallet, which you have no problem swiping at Safeway to get the “discounts” connected to it. That card is connected to your name, address, and other info they get from you and about you via other means (including public land ownership records, career info, etc.). Every time you buy stuff with it, they record what you bought, how much you bought, when you bought it and at what price, and use that data for advertising and for presentation & pricing of goods they sell you. Similar goes for your credit card trail, and other things you use without thinking about them.

The fact is, you already hand out, usually for no actual benefit to you, far more information than I propose is involved in the system I laid out. In fact, if privacy is truly a concern, then the system could be set up so that the data collected for this TV system would be completely unconnected to your name and public identity. The reason they collect your name, address, and other data is so they can use it to predict what you’ll want to buy. In the system I propose, they don’t need to do that. Frankly, I don’t think they really care what your name and address are; they only want to make money off of you. And if you are telling them exactly what you are interested in buying, what you’re looking for, then they don’t need that info, and could easily do without it.

So when you join this system, you could do so anonymously; your name and address are never asked for and never given. Nothing needs ever be tracked back to you personally. By giving more personal information, the system becomes more private.

I truly see this as being the optimal system for everyone. There’s a problem, though: fear, stupidity and greed. (Aren’t they always the problem?)

What set me off on this topic? This story about Apple’s rumored plan to rent TV shows for 99 cents. Frankly, I see this as still too expensive. Sure, better than regular TV because the ads aren’t there and it’s on my schedule, but worse than buying the DVD later on because the resolution is poorer, there are no extra features, and you don’t get to keep them.

But the content producers are calling this new model dangerous. Why? Because they saw the music industry lose their evil, usurious model, and fear that somehow something similarly bad will happen to them. So they shy away from even a model which would still be far from perfect and skitter back to even less perfect models.

Argh. It frustrates me to see them wear their fear and greed so transparently, to be so idiotic in their pursuit of fleecing the public, when it seems that a far superior system is available–but they are just backing away from it, step by fear-filled, idiotic, greedy step.

Unpublished Dilbert

April 27th, 2010 Comments off

Scott Adams says that he wants his strip to not be too far out of sync with what he’s writing about, but could not resist writing two strips which he could not publish in time to meet that rule. So he published the drafts exclusively in his blog. Click on the first frame to see the two strips:

Screen Shot 2010-04-27 At 10.28.11 Am

You can see where it’s going, right?

Categories: Entertainment, iPhone Tags:

Thanks for the Purchase, You Filthy Thief

December 17th, 2009 2 comments

Well, it finally happened. I bought a DVD the other day–bought and paid for–and what’s the first thing that pops up when I play the DVD? A commercial accusing me of stealing movies. Add that to the commercials being shown to people who just shelled out $40 for a pair of tickets in Japanese theaters accusing them of stealing. It’s bad enough that we’re forced to watch commercials for a fully-paid-for version of entertainment. To make them pay and sit through commercials and accuse them of stealing is pushing it way too far.

Do the film studios not understand how truly insulting that is?

Categories: Corporate World, Entertainment Tags:

The Star Trek Exhibit at The Tech Museum

December 14th, 2009 1 comment

I went with my sister, nephew, and some friends to the Star Trek Exhibit at The Tech Museum in San Jose (review). It appears that this is an exhibit that has been making the rounds, as it has been in at least a few other cities before, such as Detroit and San Diego.

Before we left, I was preparing to take my camera, when it struck me that they might not allow photography. I checked out the web site, and, sure enough, they didn’t. When I added that together with the fact that they had a complete bridge set from the 1966 show, it became pretty clear that either one of two things were true: either Paramount had some copyright restrictions in play, or they were making a huge amount of money by photographing people on the set and selling the photos. I bet on the latter, and I was spot on: they were charging $28 for a pair of photos of you in the captain’s chair (add $5 for a transporter photo). This in addition to the $15 admission and the $5 simulator ride. Be prepared to spend at least $58 per person if no one can resist the full photo set.

The exhibit was not really bad, but it wasn’t fantastic, either. The set recreation was OK, but wasn’t fantastic, or wholly true to the real thing. It was smaller, for one thing. You could not, for example, walk around the captain’s chair from behind, something they did all the time in the show. Mr. Spock’s station, aside from being in the wrong place relative to the captain’s chair, didn’t have the blue-light scanner thingie he used to look into all the time (they had one at Mr. Scott’s station instead, which was from a third-season version of the set). And the main viewscreen, aside from lacking the blue-light fringe, didn’t have the trademark lights at the bottom which blinked from the center outwards. Heresy.

After the bridge set, you walk through a TNG corridor past a recreation of Picard’s Ready Room (no entrance), a transporter room (another for-cash photo opp), a recreation of the Guardian of Forever set (no photos of you jumping through, wasted opportunity), a display of models and other stuff (including shooting models of a Borg Cub and the Enterprise D, both of which were a bit disappointing), followed by a special gift shop (naturally) and two simulators with a Borg scenario narrated by Michael Dorn.

We weren’t complete dorks, however; while the kids were waiting to ride the simulators, we adults sat around trading recommendations for iPhone apps.

Categories: Entertainment, Travel Tags:

There Are Revenues, and Then There’s Going Too Far

September 18th, 2009 Comments off

After years of consumers paying waaaay too much and most often being forced to buy more music than they wanted, prices have finally fallen to a much more reasonable level, the 99-cent price set by Apple’s iTunes Store. It’s the way it should be: most songs are available by themselves, producers can force album-only sales if they absolutely feel they need to, and now album extras harken back to the days of the LP and attract buyers to the album paradigm–if they want it.

In the meantime, the recording studios have been trying their hardest to suck whatever money can be had from the consumer. From using extortion to force $3000 “settlements” from accused downloaders, to lobbying for and getting governments to force CD-R makers to charge a premium so that the tax can be put directly into the music industry’s pockets, charging consumers for a crime that most of them have not committed–and still leaving them liable to be sued anyway. And the laws the RIAA lobbied for allow for up to a $150,000 fine per each $1 song, which of course is a reasonable fee, right? (Some states apply no more than a $50,000 penalty for grand theft.)

After all this, consumers need a break, not more people trying to shake them down. But that’s what’s happening–except this time it from the groups representing the performers. Now, I have sympathy for this group–they tend to get screwed over by the music labels themselves. The problem is, they’re like a kid bullied at school who then picks on the smaller kids who are already bullied half to death: these groups are not demanding more money from the labels, they’re demanding it from the other end, the wrong end of the distribution chain.

What’s more, they’re making the music labels actually look less absurd, by making even more absurd demands themselves.

You know when you visit the iTunes Store and you can preview a song for 30 seconds to check if it’s the one you want? That’s right–these groups want to charge for that.

They also want a piece (or, that is, a bigger piece) of TV shows and movies sold, as they contain music. But they’re not asking for money from the studios, who, after all, are the ones who already pay them and who really control the deal. No, they want retailers like Apple to pay them–a second time. In essence, they didn’t like the deal they got from their immediate employers, so they’re seeing if they can get complete strangers who buy an end product to pay them, directly. (Am I mistaken, or is this not done in any field?)

The representatives pushing for these new charges are making the case that they are paupers, citing paychecks they receive which are literally just a few pennies, or deals where they don’t get paid at all. One can be fairly certain that they are taking the minority of deals where they are screwed over most and leaving out the better-paying deals. But even if they’re not, they’re still doing this bass ackwards. They have no right going to the retailer and demanding money from them. The argument is that they aren’t paid for TV or movie music when those media are sold online. OK, fine–take it up with the studios. Trying to get laws passed that charge iTunes is simply stupid.

Let’s look at an analogy to see exactly how stupid this is. Let’s say that in one of the computer classes I conduct, I teach a student to make a web page. Later that student becomes a web designer. Just like the musicians, my work contributed to the final product. Then I decide that my salary is not high enough. So, is it reasonable for me to go to the place where my former students work and demand a cut of their revenue, or demand that they start charging for views of their web site to pay me? Hell, no. If I want to get paid more, I go to my boss and demand a raise. If I can’t, it’s not incumbent upon my students’ employers to make it up to me.

Let’ stop being stupid, shall we? If laws need to be passed, pass them so that artists get a bigger cut right from the start. I imagine, however, that the reason they’re not trying that is because they know that the RIAA will crush them in the lobbying game. And that’s a shame–but it doesn’t make it OK to then force someone else to pay.

Categories: Entertainment, RIAA & Piracy Tags:

Fox Gone Wild

April 7th, 2009 1 comment

Maybe it comes from working in a culture where almost literally ‘anything goes.’ Where you can say and do the most outrageous crap and if it gets ratings, you’re a star. (I mean, really, look at half the loons they have working for them. Seriously, Glenn Beck?)

What am I talking about? A Fox News writer named Roger Friedman wrote a review of a movie not yet released. But he did not see “X-Men Origins,” due out in theaters in four weeks, on a DVD screener that the studio sent him. No, he downloaded the movie from the Internet. Someone apparently made off with an early edit of the incomplete film and posted it on file-sharing sites. Friedman got that copy and wrote a review based on it.

But that’s not the strangest thing. Friedman not only downloaded and reviewed the pirate version–he wrote that he did so right there in the article:

Yes, I’ve seen “X Men Origins: Wolverine.” It wasn’t at a screening, either. I found a work in progress print of it, 95 percent completed, on the internet last night. Let’s hope by now it’s gone.

But the cat’s out of the bag, as they say, and the genie is out of the bottle. There is no turning back. But no, I will not tell you the big twist/surprise toward the end. Not now, a whole month away from release. That wouldn’t be nice.

Right now, my “cousins” at 20th Century Fox are probably having apoplexy.I doubt anyone else has seen this film. But everyone can relax. I am, in fact, amazed about how great Wolverine turned out. It exceeds expectations at every turn. I was completely riveted to my desk chair in front of my computer.“

XmenorHe was no doubt slightly underestimating that level of apoplexy, and somewhat oblivious himself as to how they would react to someone within the corporate family bragging aloud about how they had downloaded the movie and reporting on a news web site how cool it was.

Maybe this is in part because reporters do have some First Amendment leeway when it comes to reporting on illicitly gained material. Maybe he thought that he was covered by the same protections they had with the Pentagon Papers or something. But, and I am not completely certain of this, I do not think that a reporter can just simply out and out break the law and get away with it by reporting on it. Even if there are protections, there are also limits.

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that downloading content from file-sharing sites is so ubiquitous nowadays that Friedman simply didn’t think it was such a big deal. After all, if you report that you were driving 45 miles per hour in a 35 zone on an article about traffic, it’s doubtful that the police will come to your door and write you a ticket. Downloading is seen by many as being the equivalent–technically illegal, but almost everybody does it.

Or maybe Friedman was simply clueless. Wouldn’t be a first with a Fox News ”journalist.“

But here’s the strangest–or the most predictable–part of the whole affair. Friedman was fired and the story pulled–but only after 20th Century Fox caught wind of the article. Not when he handed the article to his editor.

The question should be, of course, how did the story get posted in the first place? I mean, really, what the heck is wrong with the editor who was given that story and thought, ”hey, this guy is announcing that he did something illegal and is writing a review based on it–let’s run with it!“

But that’s the thing: it is as if Fox News doesn’t have editors. In fact, Friedman may not have had one–I would not be surprised if many, or even all, of Fox’s writers simply post directly to web. After all, what comes out of Fox is like the journalistic version of Tourette Syndrome. Again, just look at Glenn Beck. This is hardly the first time that crazy crap comes out in a Fox News article, and despite Fox firing Friedman, it most likely will not be the last.

Nor is it the first time there would be implications beyond the simple ‘reporting’–there have been many which are far more serious. The most recent: three police officers dead because some loon had watched Fox or its equivalent rant on about how Obama is gonna take away all our guns. It’s equivalent to TV preachers going on about how abortion doctors are evil baby-killers and something must be done about it; that kind of talk will usually prompt some unstable person to ‘take action.’ Not that Fox will ratchet it down at all. I doubt that they care about the lives of police officers enough to admit a connection between what they do and effects like this in the real world.

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Battlestar Galactica

March 30th, 2009 1 comment

Okay, BG is now over. Some thoughts about it–below the fold so those who haven’t seen the finale yet won’t accidentally see something. Read more…

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Dum-Dum, DUM DUM, Dum, Dumb

January 6th, 2009 1 comment

Sachi was watching a program recently which involved some celebrities and athletes (including some U.S. Olympians). There was a big buildup to one part of the competition, with dramatic music and jazzy graphics, ending with the title of the competition in big letters spread across the screen:


I never could figure out what the heck they were trying to say, I just had the giggles for a while. While I missed the big reveal, I did get a few images of the title in other graphics:



Is it a typo or an example of strange usage, of borrowed English distorted beyond the original meaning? Maybe it doesn’t matter, and one should simply sit back and enjoy the absurdity.

Buying an HDTV

December 14th, 2008 9 comments

RegzasmlSachi and I are probably going to spring for a 42“ HDTV in the next week or two. Any recommendations? I like the Toshiba Regza ZH7000 for the HDD recording feature, but am less than thrilled that the lack of a VGA port means I won’t be able to connect my new Macbook Pro, at least not yet. Sharp’s Aquos seems to be the only one to sport an English option for the menus, significant because I’m the one who usually uses the menus and the language is hard to decipher. Some have Internet browsing (but never with a keyboard), others have special split-screen capabilities, and so forth. We’re looking for something in the ¥200,000 ~ ¥230,000 range preferably.

Please clue me in on what models are best for you, and why! Help us choose a new TV!

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Help Me Out Here

November 30th, 2008 5 comments

A few decades ago, movie stars never starred in TV series; that would have been considered a career-ending downgrade. Many went from television to movies, but not the other way around. Some made cameo appearances, but did not star. I recall, however, that there was one big-name movie actor who did make the transition, and very successfully–and thus opened up the floodgates. Now, we see lots of big-name actors with TV shows–some not even in the starring roles, such as Harvey Keitel in Life on Mars. But tons of movie stars can now be seen on TV shows–James Spader, Edward James Olmos, Holly Hunter, Gary Sinise, Keifer Sutherland, James Caan, Martin & Charlie Sheen, Alec Baldwin, James Woods, and Glenn Close.

Here’s a trivia question: who was that breakthrough actor or actress who legitimized television as an option for film stars? I ask not because I know, but because I can’t remember. Candice Bergen stands out as an early example (Murphy Brown started in 1988), but for some reason that doesn’t sound like the right answer. But I don’t know, maybe it was.

So, who was it? Remember, it must be someone who was known primarily as a movie actor–ruling out people like Michael J. Fox, who gained fame as a TV star first.

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Movie Fonts

August 14th, 2008 Comments off


Interesting, if flawed, quiz. Of the 24 I guessed at, I got 22 right. Not bad, considering that some images were fudged to separate them from the rest of the title–take the “U” in the third word (“Guess”); when you click on the image, you’ll see how the letter itself was changed in shape, and the surrounding background was completely altered to remove the giveaway clue. A lot you won’t get simply because you’re not familiar with the movie. And, although they had some giveaway fonts (c’mon, I’m not spoiling the “Shrek” answer), they did not include many of the more recognizable fonts, like the ones used in “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Se7en,” Lethal Weapon,“ ”The Right Stuff,“ ”The Sixth Sense,“ and so on. Instead, we get titles like… (see under the fold) Read more…

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Six Lesser Known Great Films

July 6th, 2008 1 comment

You may not agree–as usual, YMMV warnings apply–but here is a list of movies which I consider to be excellent, but which are either considered mediocre or passed under most people’s radar and are not very well known–or both. Suggested viewing when you have the chance.

Pleasantville: written by a former Clinton speechwriter, this movie starts out like a sitcom running a really good gag into the ground–but then slowly transforms into a masterpiece of social and political commentary. Randy Newman’s score is magnificent, and accordingly, the DVD has a special track dedicated to the score, with commentary.

Gattaca: It looks like a pretentious art film, but this story about a genetically defective man in a society obsessed with genetic perfection says volumes about the human spirit overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. You’ll get over the stylistic strangeness and unlikely arrangements when you realize they are in themselves metaphor and imagery designed to forward the story’s themes. A brilliant, touching movie.

Blast from the Past: an enormously pleasing comedy with Brendan Fraser playing to perfection a 30-year-old kid who grew up in a bomb shelter and is completely ignorant of the real world. His parents, played superbly by Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek as delightfully loopy characters, went into their bomb shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis and thought nuclear war destroyed the Earth when a plane crashes on their house. Fraser’s character is born there, and is raised with 1960’s Leave-It-to-Beaver sensibilities. He is forced to emerge in Los Angeles in the 1990’s, believing it is a post-apocalyptic world. Delightfully wacky.

What Dreams May Come: Robin Williams plays a man who is killed in a car accident after his children died in an accident themselves. He experiences the wonders of the afterlife, while his wife, already in a precarious state after losing her children, is destroyed when she loses her husband as well. William’s character is jolted from his heavenly bliss when he learns that his wife has committed suicide, and because of this, has condemned herself to the depths of what could be called Hell, a self-afflicted void of spirit. Williams must journey to those depths in the hope of rescuing her, potentially at the risk of becoming lost himself. Incredible cinematography and production design.

Sneakers: A funny techno-spy-adventure with a brilliant ensemble cast, where a hacker who recreated his identity after a college-days hack gone terribly awry leads a team of security consultants who specialize in testing and uncovering weaknesses in their clients’ technological defenses. The hacker finds his freedom is threatened when he is approached by government agents who would put him in prison unless he agrees to work for them–but would forever assure his safety, only if he steals a powerful new decryption key from a mathematician who could sell it on the black market. His team goes along with him and they arrange to steal the device–and then the bottom drops out from under them. Not high art, but wonderful acting you don’t want to miss, and a quirkily funny misadventure.

12 Monkeys: A film by Terry Gilliam, with Bruce Willis pounding out a good performance, but Brad Pitt unexpectedly stealing the show with an unforgettable performance. Willis plays a hapless worker in a post-plague future who happens to be suited for time travel. His mission is to go back before the epidemic begins and obtain a sample of the plague before it mutated, so the people of the future can devise a way to beat back the virus and reclaim the Earth. Time travel, however, tends to break the mind to a certain degree, and Willis finds himself institutionalized, treated by a doctor, played by Madeline Stowe, who slowly realizes with horror that her patient may not be as crazy as he seems. The story is hard to follow, and might be better watched more than once in order to understand and catch everything that’s going on, but once you “get it,” it’s a brilliant movie.

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