26 Apr 2011 @ 12:41 PM 

This self-selected sample of self-described “PC People” and “Mac People” is amusing. Some of the answers tend to make me think the Mac people are deliberately messing with the poll, though. “Oh, I use a Mac and I prefer my lunch of bánh mì while sipping a gimlet.” I cry shenanigans! I’m convinced no plurality of any group drinks gimlets in the 21st Century. Either that, or the Mac people are pretentious twats.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2011 @ 12:42 PM

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 24 Apr 2011 @ 9:56 AM 

I loved a man and his son playing the same character (especially because I love both of those actors). I love every scene with Alex Kingston in tight jeans. I love the mysterious new amnesia-inducing monsters from an Edvard Munch painting.

But, that cliffhanger! One week will crawl by, damn you Steven Moffat!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Jul 2011 @ 03:00 PM

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 18 Apr 2011 @ 10:19 AM 

The demise of soap operas (of which I was never a huge fan anyway) prompted me to write a rather long-winded piece recently, wherein I decided that DVRs were the final nail in the coffin of long-form serialized daytime dramatic television. Since then, I’ve been thinking a bit more about the disruptive technologies of the recent past and how my childhood differed from my son’s. I was interrupted in this reverie by a phone call, which ended up serving as a perfect example of the major differences.

Caller ID (didn’t exist for my childhood) showed me that The Boy was calling from a friend’s phone. The Boy requested that I bring him a particular toy from his bedroom. I wandered down the hall on my cordless phone (didn’t have that when I was a kid), and found the toy. I said to the child, “You’re at Friend’s house then?” Oh, no – they were at the park. And there went another piece of the implied landscape of my youth – a phone belonged to a location, not a person, when I was a kid.

We had a phone for the family, not for each member of it. We called people at home, and expected the person answering the phone to not necessarily be the person we were going to converse with. This seems to affect telephone etiquette, or my son’s peers are all just clueless gits. I presume the former, out of generosity. When I answer the phone when one of The Boy’s friends calls, it is almost painful to get out of them anything like a coherent statement. You know the kind we were taught to use as kids; something along the lines of, “Hello, this is Gary, I’m calling for James.” What I get now is some sputtering where, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to pick out the name of the child calling me. More often, it’s incomprehensible or a demand to speak to The Boy, with nothing like an introductory preamble. I’m convinced that all of his friends have their own personal phones now, so they just know to start talking when they answer. *Ring Ring* Look at phone, see it is James. Hey, James, what’s up?  That sort of thing is so completely foreign to us old geezers, even if we are cell phone users. Think about it, how many times do you know who is calling you, and yet the person still goes through the (now old-fashioned) introduction? I predict that the “Hello” when answering the phone may eventually die out entirely, as nobody needs to just answer as if they don’t know who is calling them.

Meanwhile, people talk on the phone an awful lot more than we did. If you were lucky enough to not have siblings screaming at you for their turn, you might be able to have a half-hour conversation on the phone in the 1980s. That was probably all you’d get for a day or more. It’s not that we didn’t have more to say, we just got tired of sitting in the one room where we had a phone for so long. Now that phones are completely untethered from a wall, much less the house itself, why ever stop talking? And so we have people who stick their phones to their heads the moment they are no longer prohibited from doing so. Hey lady, just do the grocery shopping, stop discussing your latest sexual conquest at HEB, huh?

As everyone from Ogg the Caveman until the end of humanity notes, Things Are Different Now. Listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe recently, the youngest member of the crew had no idea what “F Troop” was. Nearly everyone from my generation and before knew the same television (and radio prior to TV) shows as everyone else in their generation. After all, we only had three channels. Shoot, even PBS has only existed since 1970, and for most of its early existence was consigned to the UHF dead zone.

So, we all watched Gilligan’s Island when we came home from school, oblivious to the fact that the show had been cancelled before we were even born. We knew all the characters in the Addams Family, which also ended four years before my birth. Such was the nature of the highly-syndicated rerun system of 1970s afternoon television, in the days before cable.

In pursuit of the desire for more options in entertainment and technology, we seem to have lost most of our generational shared experiences. Just about the only thing that seems to remain is popular music. Whether you like the songs or not, if you’re remotely aware of the outside world, you’ve probably heard Cee-Lo’s F You, or Pink’s F-ing Perfect, or Enrique Iglesias’s Tonight (I’m F-ing You). Yeah, I chose those examples because of my amusement at how far we’ve come in pop music. Not that any of those three actually has the F word in the radio version of the song, but what the heck?

If you ask someone born around 1940 what they remember from their childhood, many of them would reference “Fibber McGee and Molly” on the radio, listening to Bo Diddley and Elvis, and the films of Hitchock or stars like Cary Grant, and of course Sputnik and Apollo. When you ask someone born around 1970 what they remember from their childhood, you’ll get references to “The Brady Bunch;” listening to Joan Jett,  Johnny Cougar (neé Mellencamp), Madonna, and Michael Jackson; movies like Star Wars, ET, and the Breakfast Club; and the space shuttle (first launch and the first explosion). When kids today look back in nostalgia at the early 21st Century, will any significant percentage be thinking of the same things? Will the customized nature of modern society mean the end of common experiences? And is that even a bad thing anyway?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Jul 2011 @ 03:00 PM

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 15 Apr 2011 @ 1:31 PM 

Last year, Guiding Light and As the World Turns got canceled. This year, All My Children and One Life to Live are getting canceled. It seems impossible to comprehend, but is this the last gasp of soap operas as a genre?

When I was a little kid, my mom was a housewife who watched Days of Our Lives daily. She joked about how one of the characters was born near the same time as my older brother, but by the time my brother had graduated high school, his Dayscounterpart had grandchildren who were in middle school. Meanwhile, that character’s grandparents remained middle-aged. Such is the magic of soap opera time. Although my mother, like most in her generation, eventually joined the workforce fulltime, soaps continued to survive.

During my teen years, soap operas had followed the changing schedules of women (their target, but hardly exclusive, audience) and infiltrated prime time. In the 1980s, we had Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, and I’m sure some others. In time, the viewers grew weary of the recycled melodrama with the same characters, and by 1992 all of them were gone. But somehow, the daytime soap operas continued to survive.

It’s probably difficult for most kids today to imagine a house where mom got them up in the morning and was awaiting their arrival from school in the afternoon. Accompanying those hours in between direct childcare, mothers got to hang out with their neighbors and buy Avon from door-to-door salesladies (sometimes the same people), and watch soap operas while folding the never-ending laundry. Personally, I couldn’t figure out how soaps stayed around after the 1980s, since the stay-at-home mom era seemed over by 1990. But the soaps were still there, with the same characters (frequently played by an array of actors but other times by very well-preserved surgically-altered actors). And now they’re almost all gone.

What changed in the last 20 years? Cable TV, some would say. Ah, but we had cable in the 1980s and we saw a boom in soaps, not a bust. I think it’s the DVR. While we had VCRs in the 1980s (I was in charge of programming our first model, which consisted of an array of wheels and buttons on the face of the strange device), very few people time-shifted many programs. Sure, you’d record some special episode you were interested in, but nothing routine. I knew a family whose mother couldn’t be dissuaded from her belief that the television had to be on for the VCR to work, but didn’t want to see any spoilers from the free movies she was recording off the air, so she covered the screen with a cloth. VCRs were magic. In later years, when I was attempting to replace a nice VCR that had died with a similar quality recorder, I was told that so few people every actually recordedanything on their video cassette recorders that most of the features I liked were discontinued. So, at least anecdotally, it seems VCRs were only disruptive to movie watching, not to television viewing.

In 1999, Tivo and ReplayTV were introduced. Although ReplayTV had the better product by most technical measures (automatic commercial skip for one), today they’re almost completely lost down the memory hole. Still, Tivo survived and thrived and grew from a hipster bragging right to a default home electronics device. There are DVRs in cable boxes, satellite boxes, even in some televisions. In the five years since I built my Mythbox, it has changed the way I think of television schedules profoundly. What time something comes on, what day it is shown, even what channel it is on – all are irrelevant now. I tell the magic box to record the shows I’m interested in when it finds them and I walk away. When I’ve got time, I flip through my personalized library of video entertainment. Twilight Zone is one whenever I want now, and not just during some late night hour or holiday marathon. There’s no need to be concerned that I might miss a show because I’m busy or running late on some errand – the magic box will have it waiting for me whenever it’s convenient for me.

This, I think, is what finally killed the soap opera – easy access to all the other hours of the day. When our mothers and grandmothers were staying at home, baking pies and doing laundry and all the other things we imagined they were doing, they were held hostage by Proctor & Gamble. There were three channels, and all of them had serialized programming that was intended to appeal to women. Now that those women (and men, to be fair) who remain at home during the day have the easy ability to watch 50 channels of programming, from any time of the day or night or week, it turns out they don’t actually want to watch Luke and Laura do whatever it is they do.

No need to be too wistful for the fading of an entire genre. From Guiding Light’s radio debut in 1937 until whenever the final soaps wither away, it’s been a pretty good run. And meanwhile, the networks do occasionally let a show have a long-form serial plot in the background. Sometimes it even stays on the air more than one season.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 15 Apr 2011 @ 01:31 PM

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 01 Apr 2011 @ 8:50 AM 

I know it’s a fake product (look at the URL), but I know at least a few people who would totally buy these anti-3D glasses to wear to headache-inducing films.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 01 Apr 2011 @ 08:50 AM

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 25 Mar 2011 @ 7:09 PM 

I can’t believe someone actually produced a device specifically for this problem.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 25 Mar 2011 @ 07:09 PM

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 16 Mar 2011 @ 11:45 AM 

In some sort of strange reversal of normality, the first group that seems to have really dug into the NPR “sting” video in any detail appears to be The Blaze. The Blaze is a conservative website, which you can tell because every headline is in all-caps (seriously, Righties, why do this?). Although not agreeing with Ron Schiller’s statements, the writer of this piece shows very clearly that some of the statements are taken so far out of context that it boggles the mind. One example -he replies to a statement that isn’t shown in the edited video, but it makes it look as though he’s countering a completely different statement.

It’s really quite interesting and a good piece of investigative journalism. Schiller was still obviously unwise in making some of the statements he did to these near-strangers, but in context it appears to be yet another James O’Keefe cut-and-paste mess. That guy makes Mike Moore look like an honest videographer.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 16 Mar 2011 @ 11:45 AM

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 08 Mar 2011 @ 3:44 PM 

James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart have no credibility whatsoever, after their various misdeeds of the past few years. In case they’ve completely escaped you, these stunts include “fake pimp going to ACORN offices,” which revealed nothing untoward within the organization and were nearly completely fictionalized after editing; “Shirley Sherrod is a racist” video, which was so deceptively edited that it showed the exact opposite of reality; and of course, attempting to illegally bug a Senator’s office. By this time, if you see O’Keefe or Breitbart mentioned in any sort of journalistic story, you would be justified in assuming there is no truth to it at all.

With that being said, how in the hell could this be any worse for NPR? NPR marketing droid Ron Schiller tells fake Muslims that the GOP and Tea Party are racists and entirely owned by the evangelical movement, as well as saying that NPR would be better off without federal money. Obviously, I believe his opinions have some validity – the current GOP has been in thrall to the Religious Right for decades, some in the Tea Party have a significant xenophobic streak, and NPR’s begging means they end up beholden to whichever way the political winds blow. But, I can say those things in public or in private because I have no authority or power in any significant way. A senior NPR executive should just shut the fuck up when dealing with near-strangers. It doesn’t help Schiller’s appearance much that he left NPR last week for another job. That may be true, but it sure does look like he’s running away and giving NPR deniability.

I’m very curious how this will end up playing out. There seems to be more than enough stupid to go around on both sides.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 08 Mar 2011 @ 03:45 PM

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 08 Mar 2011 @ 3:33 PM 

Listening to the KROQ 1991 playlist in the car this week, it occurred to me how many of the songs I was completely unfamiliar with. This is likely due to the fact that I spent the entirety of 1991 in the Republic of Korea. For those of you under 35 years old, let me explain why this was significant. Back in 1991, Korea did not have a blanket of high-speed internet as they do now. In fact, they barely had reliable telephones or television stations. 1991 was a time before the commercial internet, before DVD box sets (or even DVDs of any kind), way back in the dark ages of information technology. So, that year in Korea was a year where the only American pop culture I knew of was filtered by the Armed Forces Korea Network. Civilian readers, AFKN was like swaddling pop culture in a giant blanket of blandness. I could not understand, when I returned in 1992, why people were singing a song about logs being “better than bad.” I’m pretty sure the most cutting edge thing I heard on the radio that year was “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Twenty years later, I have a tiny device on my desk which looks like a miniature television set. This device is connected to my wireless router and streams Facebook updates, Gmail inbox listings, news feeds, silly games and LOLcats. Most importantly, it also streams KROQ (or KNDD, KDGE, 91X, etc.). I’m living in BFE Texas, where the best radio station around plays the same regurgitated pap that every post-Clear Channel era “best of the 80s 90s and today” channel is running. But, I am no longer beholden to the filtered geographically-dependent view of pop culture.

Alex just likes the robot clock.

Livin’ in the future, man!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2011 @ 09:47 AM

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 02 Mar 2011 @ 12:07 PM 

Wanna see something geekycool?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPnehDhGa14

That’s impressively geeky.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 02 Mar 2011 @ 12:09 PM

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 08 Feb 2011 @ 10:15 AM 

Inspired by this post from Gizmodo, I began to think of mix tapes this morning. I actually have converted some of my old mix tapes to MP3 playlists in the past, although a combination of a lack of decent backup discipline and misplaced cassettes have rendered them lost to time. Has anyone else gone through that sort of effort, or did you just move from tapes to digital audio with a clean break? For that matter, how many people actually create curated playlists, and how many hit shuffle and hope for the best? Or are you one of those album people who listen to complete albums by one artist? Some combination?

I confess to being one of those wishy-washy “combination” people. I have almost completed my KROQ Top List recreation project. Although some of the playlists from the 1980s are a bit difficult to rebuild, due to the one-hit-wonder nature of some tracks, I’ve done a pretty good job of building year-specific playlists of KROQ tunage. I also have every Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, and Cake album on my MP3 player, plus some dynamically-generated playlists (Top-rated tunes, tunes from the 1980s, etc.) and a few curated playlists I’ve built for my darling bride over the past few years.

I’m still inordinately happy that I kept the LA Megamix tape long enough to rip that to MP3, though. And if anyone has the Madhouse album “16” I’d appreciate a hookup.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 08 Feb 2011 @ 10:15 AM

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 20 Jan 2011 @ 12:51 PM 

This will undoubtedly be the coolest-looking owl video you’ve seen all week, maybe longer.

Youtube Link for embedded-impaired
He gets all “I’m a big owl” when confronted by an owl slightly larger, but turns into a tree branch when mega owlzilla shows up. Nifty!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 20 Jan 2011 @ 12:51 PM

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 12 Jan 2011 @ 5:48 PM 

Part Batman, part Dark Angel, part every cop show ever made, and a little bit of Robocop, the new series “The Cape” began this week.  So far, it’s a bit of a cliche-filled mess with one-dimensional characters.  On the other hand, Summer Glau.  Maybe we’ll give it another week to see what they make of the show.

Legend:

Orwell = Lucius Fox (Batman)/Eyes Only (Dark Angel)
ARK = OCP (Robocop)
The Cape = Batman

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 12 Jan 2011 @ 05:53 PM

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 25 Dec 2010 @ 8:57 PM 

The latest Doctor Who Christmas special, with Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins, is the best yet.  Of course, doing a Google search for Katherine Jenkins shows that she likes to show off her cleavage at public events, so bonus!

But, why was Rory dressed as a Roman soldier?  The final episode of last season, they remade the universe so the Rorybot never existed.  They’ve got a lot of explaining to do this spring.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 25 Dec 2010 @ 08:58 PM

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 17 Dec 2010 @ 8:25 AM 

If you’ve never taken a programming or discrete math class, you should just move along. For the two of you that remain, here is the funniest binary tree Christmas joke I’ve ever seen.*  And a bonus max-heap joke!

* – This is also the only binary Christmas tree joke I’ve ever seen, so your mileage may vary.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 17 Dec 2010 @ 08:30 AM

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 07 Dec 2010 @ 7:43 AM 

Hey, look, the President compromised again.*

* – Where “compromise” is read to mean “capitulate” of course.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 07 Dec 2010 @ 07:43 AM

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 24 Nov 2010 @ 7:17 AM 

I’ve been slowly building every KROQ “Top 106.7 Songs” playlist for the years they did them, and recently finished 1985. It’s interesting to see how many of the songs that were considerd the biggest of the year (for that station) are completely forgotten today. For instance, the John Palumbo song “Blowing up Detroit” – I don’t remember that song at all, nor the singer, nor the band he’s still in today (Crack the Sky). Other songs are an interesting piece of history. There’s the obvious John Hughes reference – Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” And there’s also the social commentary – Artists United Against Apartheid’s song “Sun City” was big in 1985. It took 5 more years for De Klerk to begin negotiating an end to apartheid, and it wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid ended with multi-racial elections in South Africa. But, the song is a part of many people’s memories of the era when (after 40 years) we in the USA finally noticed apartheid was part of the society of a country where our rich people went to party.

As Kat points out, the list also includes a very obvious LA-centric slant.  Three Oingo Boingo songs are on the 1985 list, and yet most folks outside of SoCal have heard of exactly one OB track – Weird Science. Amusingly, there’s also a Danny Elfman song, “Gratitude,” on the list, which was recorded with the entire Oingo Boingo band on an Elfman solo album (So-Lo) – the ridiculous nature of recording an album with the exact same people but calling it solo instead of Boingo is due to some dispute with their record company. So, “Gratitude” is considered to be both an Elfman solo track and a Boingo band track – it appeared on the Best O’ Boingo compilation album years later, adding some credence to the Boingo provenance. Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Oingo Boingo performed their farewell Halloween concert.

So, any bands or songs you remember from years past, but are completely lost to most of your friends’ memories?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 24 Nov 2010 @ 07:17 AM

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 02 Nov 2010 @ 6:16 AM 

At the grocery store last night, a leggy blonde in a VERY short tight black dress and high-heeled boots (with a thigh tattoo peeking between the two) strolled past, drawing the eye of every straight man in the parking lot. The Boy said, “That’s not a very practical outfit.” He obviously doesn’t like girls yet.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 02 Nov 2010 @ 06:32 AM

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 22 Oct 2010 @ 12:45 PM 

If you’re a geek, you’ve thought of or maybe even built a home-theater PC – that strange device which is a full-fledged computer hooked up to your television. Most of the rest of the TV-watching public, however, is utterly uninterested in such geekery. They do want to see their Youtube videos and Netflix streams on the bigger screen, but they’re not interested in doing the hard work necessary to put them there.

Enter Google TV and Roku boxes and Apple TV. A simple, somewhat affordable (Logitech, why 300 bucks?) device, hooked up to your television and your internet connection, enter some passwords and usernames, BAM! Internet media on your television. That’s the dream, right?

Google TV has been blocked from streaming ABC, NBC, and CBS shows from the networks’ web sites. Think about this for a minute, and you may begin to see the point of view of Network Neutrality advocates. Google TV uses Chrome, the web browser, to access ABC’s website. The user on his couch sees the web site just as he would see it if he were using his regular PC to view that site. The same ads load. The same content is there. But, because the machine he’s using says (as it’s supposed to), “I’m a Google TV browser” – no soup for you.

Still here?  True, this is not an actual case of network neutrality being violated, because the ISP is not the one blocking content from flowing over their network. The content provider has the right, no matter how irrational, to prevent anyone from watching their content in any manner. They could capriciously decide that only certain blocks of IP addresses could view their shows online. They could browser sniff and decide that they don’t like Opera, even if Opera is perfectly capable technically of watching their content. They’ve decided they hate Google this week. By extension, their viewers, the ones who care enough about How I Met Your Mother to go to the CBS website and seek it out, the most avid viewers with the most brand loyalty – fuck them.

Interesting business decision.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 22 Oct 2010 @ 12:48 PM

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 10 Sep 2010 @ 12:32 PM 

The jeep was out of the Army inventory before I enlisted (I saw lots of CUCV and HMMWV and tracks and the occasional deuce and a half or five-ton), but they were legendary for their ease of repair.  These guys make it look incredibly easy to rip one apart and put it back together, in less than four minutes.  I think they’ve practiced.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 10 Sep 2010 @ 12:32 PM

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