Sunday, November 27, 2005

How I Love (Pod|Vid)casting

Extended holiday weekend ... a chance to catch up on a variety of things. Given the options of:

  1. Watching regular television
  2. Watching movies on cable
  3. Watching DVDs
  4. Watching Video-on-Demand (VOD)
  5. Watching/Listening to Vidcasts (videoblogs) or podcasts

I find myself increasingly moving in the direction of #'s 3, 4, and 5 (with 5 becoming the fast favorite). Frankly, regular TV blows (duh), and has for some time. Lame concepts, rehashed plots, and commercials ... those flippin' commercials that you see every 5 minutes (if you're fortunate, you won't see the same commercial every single break ... if your fortunate). Same companies pushing the same crap over and over and over again. I know, I know, I wrote about this before. I can't help myself ... I find the entertainment industry unbelievably frustrating these days.

Sadly, cable channels are beginning to follow in their footsteps at a more and more irritating rate. I used to really enjoy watching the SciFi Channel (which is sad, because now that they're doing their own B-rated movies, I'd enjoy a mindless film from time to time ... but ...), the Food Network (it's my personal chef side), Biography, The History Channel, and others ... until they took the concept of commercials and cross-bred it with cross-promotion. Now, you have the same number of repeated interruptions to whatever you're attempting to watch. But, rather than pepper you with spots for floor wax, spot remover, or the latest and greatest in SUV technology ... they run ads for other shows on their own networks, and they do it with even more idiotic frequency than the major networks run "traditional" spots.

Even public television is beginning to go overboard. Granted, you don't get commercial interruptions during the program (unless you're watching during a pledge drive ... and there seem to be more and more of those happening nowadays, too), just between shows, where you see one "underwriter" mentioned after another. And the "mentions" now take the form of 15- to 30-second commercial spots (but they're not "commercials" ... because public television doesn't do "commercials" ... you say toe-MAY-toe, I say toe-MAH-toe, doesn't matter what you call it, it's the same damn thing).

The folks from the premium networks (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, etc.) must watch their fair share of public television, because you now see the same over repetition of "ads" promoting other shows on the same networks. And now that there isn't just a single HBO, Showtime, or whatever channel there are entire networks of them (HBO Family, HBO Latin, Encore, Showtime Family, etc.) they can cross-promote shows from one channel to the next, providing an even broader selection of spots to assault us with.

Pay Per View (PPV) and Video On Demand (VOD) can aleviate commercial overload, assuming that you either:
  • are willing to put up with the fees the cable companies charge to rent a player that's compatible with their networks, or
  • subscribe to a service like TiVo, and are willing to accept their restrictions on content utilization (including, but not limited to, their systems ability to delete content from your system after a period of time, whether you wish that content deleted or not), or
  • are technically savvy enough (and equipped with some disposable income) to construct your own personal video recorder (PVR), which is becoming easier with the evolution of systems like MythTV, but still doesn't necessarily integrate into a home theater system in a straightforward way.

And heaven forfend if you should opt out of television and want to listen to music. You can:

  • use iTunes from Apple, locking yourself into their software's "interesting" (transaltion: designed by people who apparently never bothered to ask the user community how they do things) method of managing music. The price ($0.99/song) is right (though the record labels want to change that), and it works for many ... but ..., or
  • subscribe to, locking yourself into their proprietary format, or
  • use software like WinAmp and rip your own music (again with the technically savvy)
Depending on the path you choose, you may find yourself limited, hobbled, frustrated, or harrassed by the RIAA (which seems to have carte blanche to act as a private collections agency/enforcement unit with almost complete impunity).

In a word ... make that two words ... no thanks.

I love what's happening in the podcasting and videoblogging world right now. New content ... fresh content ... niche content ... things you'd never see through other commercial channels (because they wouldn't be able to figure out how to monetize it sufficiently) ... and, most important, content created by regular people for regular people. Plus, because it's "time shifted", you can listen watch what you want when you want to. Save shows for later and listen/watch them again. Got an idea for a show of your own? Grab an iRiver (or similar player w/ a microphone) and dive right in.

It's giving the regular media channels a headache they so richly deserve. They can't control it ... the can't monopolize it (in spite of Apples iTunes 4.9 launch which, initially, pushed "indie" podcasters out of the limelight as the networks rolled shows out ... until people realized that the network's "shows" were just the same crap they've been slinging in a new package with a pretty pink bow) ... they can't even figure out how to monetize it (making some of them question the viability of the medium: "If I can't figure out how to make money with it, it'll never be popular enough to worry about." Wrong).

But enough of the rant. Check it out, it's worth exploring. To start "casting your own web", check out some of the following places:

  • -- Adam Curry manages the top-level of this growing OPML-based directory (meaning the individual categories are managed by people from around the world) of podcasts.
  • PodSafe Music Network -- Loaded with music that is safe (i.e. free of RIAA interference) to listen to (and use in your own podcasts)
  • PodNova -- An online podcast aggregation service (simple and easy to use). Access your feeds from anywhere.
  • MeFeedia -- An online video cast aggregation service. Relatively new, easy to use.
  • Juice -- Open source "podcatching" client for Windows, Mac, and Linux (soon). Can be tied to your PodNova account to automatically keep up your current list of feeds, downloading new casts as they become available (so you can plug them right into your player without having to go hunting for them).
  • FireANT -- Video feed catcher/watcher
If you're interested in getting started with your own podcast, one of the best sources I can mention is Podcast411. Rob's done a remarkable job creating a library of tutorials that can get you off and running.

Me? Yeah, I'm working on a couple shows (completely different genres). When they're ready for prime time ... you'll be the first one to know.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Corteo: The Show Moves On

I finally went to see Corteo  this afternoon, catching the last show before it leaves Minneapolis and heads for San Fransicso. As I said back when Alegria was in town, if you ever have the opportunity to see a Cirque du Soleil show, go.

Sitting in the 4th row back from the stage, it was almost too close (the show is heavily aerobatic, with people flying on wires all over the place), but it was definitely worth it. I'm not even going to try to describe the performance, it simply cannot be done with words, you have to experience it for yourself. And the DVDs, the music CDs, and the TV airings on Bravo don't get you there either. Yes, they're good ... but they only give you a taste ... and it's simply not the same. I find myself comparing the evening to the MasterCard commercial series:

  • Tickets: $70
  • Parking: $10
  • Bag of popcorn the size of your head: $5
  • Chance to see Cirque du Soleil: priceless

I went alone this year (was trying to get some friends to go ... and they were interested ... just not enough to commit to a date so we could get tickets. Their loss.) and, although watching those lithe, limber athletes bounding around both sky and stage (reminding me how out of shape I am ... and how old I'm getting), it was still fantastic. Even better was seeing that Minnesotans have grown up a bit from when Alegria was in town: not a single cellphone went off during the performance (at least, none that I could hear). The opening announcements I found creative yet subtle when dealing with this:

"... after the show, please remember to turn your cellphones and pagers back on ..."

No "please turn them off, now" message like the last time (for all the good it did ... just read my post) ... just a polite reminder to turn them back on when you leave. Inverse psychology, if you will. I like that.

And still, there are some things that are so traditionally "Minnesota un-nice" ... I think they're typical of human behavior regardless of the state or city ... like trying to get out of the parking lot after the show. Rather than go into a diatribe around each instance, I offer the following "Tips of Parking Lot Etiquette":

  • When entering the lot, think ahead. It may make perfect sense to put the car as close to the exit as you possibly can, but parking in the aisle you know people are going to be driving down when their trying to leave means you'll have to make a jackass of yourself backing out into the exit lane when you want to go.
  • If you must park in the exit aisle, go find a restaurant or bar and have a cocktail (or two) after the show. Wait for 30 minutes (or an hour) before trying to go extricate your car. You'll have more fun, and spend less time waiting.
  • When walking to your car, remember that there are people in large, heavy, metalic motorized vehicles that are already trying to leave ... walk through them at places that will do the least damage to the flow of traffic. You may find that things are easier for you to get out when you finally get into your car if you let more people ahead of you do the same.
  • Since we're all trying to do the same thing (leave), show a little courtesy for the people around you. Honking your horn, flashing your brights, or riding up on the trunk of the car in front of you because they're not moving as fast as you'd like them to (nevermind that they can't go forward right now because the traffic light at the exit is red) isn't going to get you out the door any faster.
  • While I'm on the subject, keep in mind that we all have to squeeze out the same exit ... so share. Just because you've got an SUV doesn't make you special (stupid, probably ... special, definitely not). Wait your turn.
  • Last (but definitely not least), relax. Be patient. You'll get out just like everyone else.

In short, think. The very people who don't think of those around them ... are the same ones who get so mad when someone else's lackof thinking directly impacts them.

That said, even the antics of my fellow Minnesotans didn't tarnish the evening. It was a damn good show. If you ever have a chance ... GO.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Podcasting vs. 500 Cable Channels ... the winner? (psst ... it ain't cable)

Catching up on my podcasts (I listen to way too many of them … but I can’t help myself), I’m listening to Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code for September 22 right now, as Adam’s doing a bit of comparison/contrast on the popularity of podcasting here in the states, while the concept is a little slower getting off the ground elsewhere around the globe.  To summarize, Adam believes:

  • Podcasting is popular here in the US because people are fed up with what radio/TV are currently offering … the technology now exists both for you and I to both create and share content (audio now, and video coming) … and people are “voting with their ears and eyes” by hunting down something new.
  • In the UK (for example), the media (BBC) does better programming, so there’s less frustration or dissatisfaction … hence podcasting, while growing, is growing slower.

I completely agree.  The networks (and I’m talking television, cable, and radio) have done a wonderful job packaging up pablum that the unwashed masses have greedily consumed.  Problem is … we may be unwashed, but we like a bit of variety in our diet … and the networks are doin’ a poorer and poorer job with the meal planning (to continue the analogy).  What with all the talk of obesity in America, you could extend things even farther and say that our media habits are as cholesterol-and-sugar-heavy as our eating habits, except that it’s our minds that are getting fat, slow, and lethargic.  Spoon feed the same boring … well, crap … and see what happens? 

But I digress.  Here’s another angle to consider:  Remember when cable (TV) first made its appearance?  Remember all the promises made by cable/broadband proponents?

  • Enhanced TV (with additional embedded content)
  • 500 channels (or more) … you could literally find anything you want to watch

That was then … this is now:

  • Enhanced TV … if you have a High Definition TV and you’re watching one of the few programs that use it
  • More channels than before … not 500 … unless you count the 20 channels of in-car NASCAR + 20 channels of football + 20 channels of baseball + multiple ESPN channels + all the HBO channels + all the Showtime channels (that show the same movies) + … get the picture?

Why has it been this way?  Simple:  money.  It costs money to fire up channels (tv, cable, radio, doesn’t matter) … money to produce shows.  Where do you get money?  Advertisers … but it comes with a price:  the advertiser then controls (or, at the very least, influences) the programming.  And, it costs a lot of money.

Not with podcasting.  In fact, anyone can create a podcast.  All you need is an iRiver and a trip to Rob’s website (and podcast) to go through his tutorials and you’re off and casting … and you can podcast about anything you want.  You can even do video casts … with nothing more than your home movie camera if you choose.

Welcome to 500 real channels with content that spans the map.  Check out or podnova and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Universe Is Huge. What We Are ... Isn't

If you’ve ever wanted to know how big/old/whatever the universe is … now we know.  So, the answers to questions that have been plaguing scientists (and the occasional quiz show) are as follows:

Now we know.  Man … we (i.e. that which you and I actually see in this universe) are only 4% of what’s there … ponder that the next time you encounter some self-important person who thinks the world of themselves, their beliefs, or their causes …

… it’ll help you put them in perspective.

When mixing JavaScript and XML ...

… somethings things act … strangely. I was tweaking a script I use to manage podcasts (bridging the gap between iPodder and WinAmp), I needed a date formatting function. No problem, the DateFormatter from is an excellent module (if you need date formatting in JavaScript, get it, it rocks).

Problem is, I’m writing Windows Scripting Host format scripts (using their XML schema and generating .wsf files) and I came across some interesting behavior in the cscript engine. If the engine incounters a ‘<’ (“less than”) symbol in a JScript block, it bombs with the following error:

Windows Script Host: Expecting a valid name

Even more irritating, you’ll get the error even if you comment out the offending line (doesn’t matter which way you do it, line comments (//) or comment block (/* … */) … which tells me that it’s the XML parser part of the engine that’s barfing (it doesn’t get to the JScript engine). This took a little while to figure out … and if you think like an XML parser, it (sort of) makes sense: it hits the ‘<’, thinks a new XML element is being started, and doesn’t like what it sees next (in the case of the date formatter, it usually was a number).

Ok, fine. Now what? Well, the solution (at least, my solution … I’m sure there are others out there that are more elegant) was to rewrite the logic converting all less-than comparisons to an equivalent greater-than comparison. For example:

formats['DD'] = ( date < 10 ) ? '0' + date : date;


formats['DD'] = ( 10 > date ) ? '0' + date : date;

and so forth. The logic still holds … it lets you plug it into a WSH file without generating a parser error … and it’s still a cool chunk of code.

Save yourself the trouble of rewriting Gazingus’ script, here’s a copy with the “patches”. I’ll post my iPodder script after I add some comments.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I wonder if they take walk-ins?

If you’re a restaurant fancier, you simply must read this bit of humor.  It was fantastic!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sit Yer Fat Butt Down ... and Eat!

Catching up on my SciFi Channel watching tonight, I’ve seen (more than once … but that’s a different rant) Burger King’s latest ad campaign, featuring the return of Dr. Angus (Harry Enfield).  You know the character:

  • (too) perfect teeth
  • “sloppy” speech (much like Patrick over at Nobody Likes Onions)
  • Hair only Wink Martindale’s mother could love
  • bit of a paunch

Yep … that’s the guy (I’ve gotta give Enfield credit, he does a great job with this character).  And the focus of this latest campaign, the crux of Dr. Angus’ latest “empower yourself through beef” movement?  Power Sitting:  the power of the Angus to enable you to sit … and enjoy things … like hamburgers that require two hands and a forklift to maneuver.

Now, on one hand, I find the concept cute … on the other hand, I’ve gotta ask myself one question:

“With all the concern with obesity in America, doesn’t an obviously overweight man encouraging people to partake of inactivity while they eat hamburgers the size of their own heads … seem contradictory … or maybe just plain wrong?”

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Now That's What I'm Talkin' About

Remember those cool communicators in Earth: Final Conflict? Or, perhaps, the ones from TekWar (ok, ok, yeah it’s a Shatner thing, but the technology was cool)?

We’re getting close … check out this little ditty from over at GadgetFlash. Phillips has it goin’ on.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Every Blog Has It's Day ...

… and it happens to be today. Yep, that’s right, today is BlogDay 2005, when bloggers around the world are to link to 5 new blogs. Interesting concept, in that it gets you to “think outside the blog” … or, at least, the blogosphere you’re familiar with.

So, without further adieu, here are some new blogs I’ve stumbled across:

  • For the science-minded, check out the Physics Blog. Everything from noteworthy news to poetry.
  • “It’s a dog’s life” is more than a phrase over at the Beagle Chronicles.
  • Everybody’s got to have a hobby. If numismatics is yours, swing by hobbyblog.
  • For those of you who simply cannot get enough of your celebrity chefs (Gordon Ramsay’s so cute when he’s mad, don’t you think?), there’s SuperChef Blog.
  • For you Oracle-fanciers (I'm talking about the database, people! Sheesh), and some insight from one of Oracle's best insiders, check out the Tom Kyte Blog.

So, get out there, get clicking, and check out more blogs!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fnord + Blogger = Fnordder? ... Flogger? ... Blnorder?

Taken from the Wikipedia entry:

A fnord is disinformation or irrelevant information intending to misdirect, with the implication of a conspiracy.

Just think back to some of the colorful mixed metaphors attributed to Ross Perot, and you’ll get the general idea.

What’s this have to do with blogging? I’m glad you asked:

  1. Whilst catching up on the feeds in my aggregator (I’m currently using Newzie, which is definitely worth checking out), I came across an article on Blogger hacks. This led me to Stephane Hamel’s article on embedding a dynamic random quote with javascript.
  2. I used to have a Fnorder (code that generated Fnords) on my old site (one of these days, I’ll get around to bringing the “lab” back online … maybe), written in PHP. If you’re interested, you can pick up the script from Steve Jackson Games.
  3. I grabbed a copy of the PHP … converted it to Javascript … voila! The quote in black (above) changes each the page is loaded … and it’s a “fnord”.

Go ahead and refresh to see for yourself. You can download the javascript here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Reality TV = Lotto with Ads

NBC had a “Fall Preview” show on this morning.  Really nothing more than all the ads for their shows played back-to-back (nothing deeper, no “behind-the-scenes” stuff, nothing) with Vanessa Marcil and Nikki Cox (from Las Vegas) hosting (aka “eye candy”)… in other words, the same pointless, mindless, useless fluff the networks have become known for.  I see Martha’s dominion is back in full swing, becoming the next Apprentice franchise (leave it to Martha to key into something with the word “franchise” attached) … and that put me back into my ongoing internal rant over the entire concept of “reality TV”.

Then it hit me:  reality TV is the next Lotto.

Our society has been preoccupied with the concept of accumulating excessive wealth for centuries.  Along with that has come both the hucksters and the “hucked” of one get-rich-quick scheme after another.  Look at some of them from the last decades:

  • Publishers Clearing House
  • Amway (and all the MLM or “MLM-like” derivatives that preceded and followed)
  • Day trading
  • Real Estate (I’m talking about the more speculative side)
  • Beanie Babies
  • The “dot-com” boom (more of a ka-boom, as we saw)
  • the Lottery (gambling from the comfort of your gas station)

Some may say “Hey!  Real estate is a real investment!”  To them I reply “you’re absolutely right … assuming you know what you’re doing and are willing to accept the consequences (e.g. financial loss) if you don’t or are wrong”.  Problem is, many people don’t accept the responsibility of failure … we just go hunting for someone to sue (another bullet to add to the list above:  lawsuits).

My point is this:  look at the trends that have driven some of the greatest crazes of our time, and they all come back to the same things:  money or fame (or getting famous because you won money … or getting more money because you’re now famous).  And we’ll do anything we have to to achieve that fame/money … including reality TV.

And the cool thing about reality TV is you don’t have to be what they’re looking for on the show, you just have to be willing to do anything for the cash.  In “Hell’s Kitchen” (Gordon Ramsay’s entry into realTV from Fox), half of the “chef wanabees” didn’t even work in the food business (out of the 12 there were 3 chefs, 1 baker, a culinary student and a server … the rest were outside of the food industry).  Who won … a chef (go figure) … but, hey, at least someone who’d never worked a line in a restaurant had a chance.  Like the lottery … there’s always a chance.

And the networks will gladly create this schlock, because advertisers will pay to have it created … because we will watch it.  There’s money to be made.

I wonder what would happen if someone tried to combine reality TV with politics?

Just a thought …

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What's that about "those who forget history ..."

Remember the great (one could almost say venomous) enthusiasm with which the Department of Justice went after Microsoft last decade?  Our government was convinced that Microsoft was an unfair monopoly, pushing it’s weaker competitors (like Sun and Oracle … yes, there is sarcasm there) out of the market … remember?  No?  Good lord, where have you been?  Really?  Hmmm … in that case, I’ve got this great concept for an internet startup and I’m soliciting venture capital.  It’ll make you positively rich, what with the internet boom and all.  What’s that?  Hell, yeah, the boom’s still on!

Ok, Ok … all sarcasm aside.  That was then … this is now.  That was the DOJ … this is the FCO (Federal Copyright Office) … and apparently, while the DOJ found Microsoft guilty, the FCO seems to think they’re they only solution for interacting with their online copyright registration process.  At least, they’re asking “would y’all mind it if we required IE?”.  Apparently, the FCO never got the memo (or memos, when you factor in all the security issues).

If I wasn’t so flabbergasted (and, sadly, not surprised) by this, I’d blog more.  In the meantime, check out Aunty Spam’s article on it and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

And now for a word from our sponsors ...

Having worked in technology for as many years as I have, insomnia has become an “occupational hazard”.  From time to time, I still find myself running full tilt in the middle of the night, unable to slow down or relax enough to sleep until sunrise.  In the past, I used to rely on late-night television to help me shift gears … wind down. 

You know the drill:  you’re flipping through the channels and come across a movie you’ve seen before, yet still like.  So, you hunker down to watch (the visual equivalent of reading a book, except you’re not really interested in retaining anything) … and, just as you’re getting “into the groove”, both with the program and your circadian rhythm …

… and it’s time for a commercial …

… actually, it’s time for a crapload of commercials.  Worse yet, these are (more than likely) the same commercials you just saw during the last break, which was only 5–10 minutes ago.  Maybe the first or second time, you tolerate it … but then, you get pissed … really pissed.  How many people are going to remember in the morning that they should go out and check out the local auto dealership, because they saw some local shmuck’s face a hundred times in a 2–hour span the night before?  Heck, even the infomercials these days suck.  I remember the “good old days” of infomercials … the dude with the whacky sweaters and amazing discoveries … like spray-can hair (yes, spray-can hair, not hairspray) … those were good commercials.  The sad thing is, it doesn’t put me to sleep, it just pisses me off … here’s an example of what our society has become:  they won’t air something someone hasn’t paid for, meaning that some company has actually paid to have their product power-plastered into the minds of insomniacs.  I just bugs me … but it doesn’t stop with TV …

… it’s now begun to spread into podcasting (yes, this goes back to my rant the other night about monetization).  With Apple’s latest iTunes release, more people are able to easily (well, that’s a relative thing … depends on who you ask) subscribe to podcasts … meaning more people are podcasting.  Let me rephrase that:  more entities are podcasting … people, couples, organizations … corporations … and radio stations.  Yep, we’ve got radio stations repackaging their programs and making them available as podcasts … and in many cases commercials included.

Food is one of my passions, so I tend to watch “food things”:  websites, blogs, podcasts, etc.  I can handle (to a point) the ads that websites splatter across their pages to help offset cost … but I just finished listening to several podcasts of food programs that I thought would be interesting … but were really no different than what’s available on-air:  segments of content limited in scope because they have to play so many ads within a given period of time.  And, we’re talking ads that mean absolutely nothing to me:  stores advertising products or events in cities I don’t live in or near, other radio programs on stations I can’t listen to, you name it.

Why?  Because a large chunk of those exploding onto the podcasting scene have no clue what podcasting really is … to them, it’s merely another way of distributing content, gaining “ears” so they can sell more ads.

Ads aren’t content.  Content is content.  Somehow, we need to remember that.

Friday, August 05, 2005

An "A" for creativity ... but ...

I came across a new article over at CodeProject, and I couldn’t help myself.  In a nutshell, the author was trying to solve the following problem:  How can I get rid of those irritating ORA-xxxx errors that are thrown when I attempt to INSERT records into the database and the field data violates a key constraint?

I’m all for creative, “out-of-the-box” thinking … but the solution proposed (which would word) is a heck of a lot more work than necessary:  by storing additional information in the database that you check against before you attempt to insert the data.  Not necessary, as you can use those ORA-errors to help you get the job done:  Trap the errors in a PL/SQL exception block and deal with them inside the database.  No additional tables, no additional tests, better scalability.

At any rate, if you’re interested, check out the article.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"... 43 people were injured, but amazingly no one was killed ..."

So it was said on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, during a story on the Air France accident in Toronto yesterday.  While it’s great news that no lives were lost, the word “amazingly” struck me as odd in the sentence the anchor was reading.  It was as if there was a bit of disappointment in the fact that even though the plane split in half, that there was fire, lightning, rain, panic, and plenty of fodder for the “experts” to be questioned on (I just love our media:  when there are no more facts than have already been presented, fill the time by asking the same questions to one expert/analyst after another, providing them with their 15 minutes of broadcast fame) … no one died.

I’ve always found the English language both intriguing and amusing, and I’m probably picking nits, but since we are a people who are so focused on the words used (in spite of the meaning … or, maybe, because of the potential multiple meanings and our desire to know exactly what was meant), there are other words what would have had less of a “damn, no blood” feeling.  Such as “fortunately”.  Try this:

“… 43 people were injured and, fortunately, no on was killed …”

No “crap, it’s not a horrendous catastrophe” sentiment.  Ok, ok … someone could argue that “fortunately” is “editorialising”.  I’d argue that “amazingly” is just as much editorialising, but in a negative way.

Such is our species:  we’re drawn to catastrophe, and bored by fortune (unless, of course, that fortune comes in the form of a lottery ticket that we are holding).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Reality (TV), the Next Generation

Hell’s Kitchen, one of the latest reality shows (Gordon Ramsay bloody rocks), finished last night.  Not first food reality show (others including “The Restaurant”, “Into the Fire”, and even “Iron Chef”, depending on what you call “reality”).  And it looks like America’s TV food fetish is just beginning, what with the new sitcom Kitchen Confidential starting this fall (both shows on Fox … coincidence?).  I’m curious what Anthony Bourdain thinks of it (though I’d rather see a show based on Tony’s book, but somehow I don’t think it would have made prime time) … but I digress … today’s subject is reality television.

Now, I find reality television as amusing as the next person (when I have/find time to watch it, usually by accident), and I’ve fought like mad to keep from becoming an addict (I will admit that I really got into Rocco DiSpirito’s “The Restaurant” … for awhile, then it I found myself thinking Rocco an arrogant … well, anyway … I’m digressing again) …

… but I’m afraid that I can’t help myself:  I found myself cooking up the next great American reality series:

Working TitleRoyal Flush

Concept:  One of the greats of Texas Hold’em (Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Chris Moneymaker) take on a cadre of gambler wannabes from a variety of backgrounds (schoolteacher, truckdriver, computer programmer, priest, etc.), challenging them as they’re taught how to be the next great Hold’em champion.  The last man standing wins a seat at the table at the World Series of Poker.

Why not?  We’ve had chefs, boxers, bug-eaters, billionaires, executives, sports agents, and Hiltons (to name a few).  Why not poker players?

Just remember: you heard it here first.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Why must everything be "monetized"?

Podcasting has hit the mainstream, due in a major way to Apple’s latest version of iTunes.  And, as has always been the case whenever a technology blooms into the general public awareness, the “experts” are out in full force … interviewing and being interviewed, expounding their expertise and making their predictions.  You pretty much hear it all:

  • Podcasting is the next media
  • Podcasting is a fad
  • Podcasting will kill radio
  • Podcasting can cure male pattern baldness

While listening to G’Day World’s podcast with Frank Baranko (On The Pod #40), I keep hearing the same thing:

  • Podcasting will be taken over by “the big guys”
  • Little (indie) podcasters are being squeezed out
  • The little guy will be stomped out
  • Unless you can monetize it, you won’t succeed

Granted, this isn’t the first show I’ve heard this take on, but come on, people … open your bloody eyes!  It’s sad that the unwashed masses are so indoctrinated into the mass-market pablum spewing forth today that’s colloquially called “radio and tv” … that “wonderfully interesting, intellectual, challenging” collection of reality shows (how many different ways can you eat bugs?) that all we can think about is “how can I make money from this?”

I don’t get it.

I doubt I ever will.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Yeah! Home Delivery ... Wait ... I have to be home when?

Came home from work to find a flyer (junk mail as a door mat … somehow it seems appropriate).  Wait … it looks like SimonDelivers is finally getting over to this side of the Twin Cities. Excellent!  This is a fantastic concept for the time-constrained:

  • Call them or surf their site
  • Place your order
  • Have it delivered right to your door

Sweet!  Hold it … hmmm … lessee …

  • Delivery times are on a weekday between 2 and 4 pm
  • No need to be home

Ok, I live in an apartment building.  You mean to tell me that my orders gonna be sitting out by the elevator in the public area until I get back?  Wait … there’s more …

  • Groceries are packed with dry/blue ice, items stay fresh for up to 8 hours

Up to”?  It’s July in Minnesota … one of only two months of the year where the temperature gets above freezing (I may be exaggerating, but it doesn’t seem by flippin’ much).  So … if they’re efficient in the delivery, and the clock starts close to 2, I’ll be down to 2 hours of “fresh time” if I make it back by 6 (which ain’t easy with my current commute).  Note to self, do not order ice cream, mayonnaise, eggs, or anything else that’s hyper-bacterial velcro.

I’m still a little intrigued by the “don’t have to be home” and the “we’ll leave it by the elevator”.  I’ve seen how people handle the phone books (delivered by the stack and parked next to the mailboxes) … you’d swear some folks have a call center in their bathroom with the number of books they cart off.  I wonder how they’re gonna handle something packed in dry ice in a clearly distinguishable SimonDelivers tote bag.

Gonna sit this one out for a bit … see what happens.

Monday, July 11, 2005

'Bout Time ...

... I get this sucker moving again. Sorry, spent the last week trying to get several different projects tied off. Moving sites around, consolidating stuff (it's amazing how much crap I've got strung out all over the internet ... guess that makes me a "digital packrat" ... or a "byte-rat" ... something like that).

I should have life back to normal again this week.