Friday, May 26, 2006

Cats and Bird Flu

Yet another good reason to keep your cat indoors: the ASPCA has a simple FAQ on how to keep your feline friends safe from bird flu. Bottom line: keep them inside where it's (I hope) unlikely they'll eat raw bird parts.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

'Cause You Had a Bad Day, You're Taking One Down...

The Jake Effect

The never-before-seen (at least by me) pilot for The Jake Effect, starring Jason Bateman, Greg Grunberg and Nikki Cox, is available online at Brilliant But Cancelled. A 6-episode marathon also airs tonight on Bravo.

"No far right person in this country is going to get on the cover of Time" -- Bill O'Reilly, 5/22/06

Lifehacker Tip: "A cookbook"

I tried to explain the concept of to a web newbie a few weeks ago, and she had no idea why it would be useful. Web 2.0 is an acquired taste, I guess.

Anyway, Lifehacker points out one of the million ways it's useful: collecting recipes. And the linked article contains a "virtual cookbook" of over 300 recipes.

TV Writing and Gift-Giving

Watching the incredible, gripping, satisfying, tantalizing finale of Lost last night, I couldn't help but contrast it with the stultifying finale of Desperate Housewives, and I had a bit of an epiphany:

I think TV writing is a lot like gift-giving.

I love giving gifts, but I can't keep a secret. If I've bought a friend a great gift, I can't wait until the occasion to give it to them. I want to give it to them right away, to see their reaction.

The writers of Lost or 24 (or, back in the day, Buffy) are great gift-givers. They have wonderful surprises in lots of beautiful packages, and just when you think they've run out, they open the trunk of their car and pull out more boxes they've been excitedly holding back. Inside are more boxes inside boxes, like Russian nesting dolls. But they don't let you gorge yourself. They know just when to stop, so it feels like you've been treated.

A great plot twist is a surprise present you weren't expecting.

But the writers of Desperate Housewives think a great plot twist is to give you a beautifully wrapped present, tell you it's what you always wanted... but when you open it up, it's empty. Then they apologize and give you your real present: another beautifully-wrapped box, also empty.

It's not a "plot twist" to keep bringing Susan and Mike together and then at the last minute yanking them apart. That's not a gift to your audience. It's like unwrapping a big empty box. The same one we've been unwrapping since the show started.

Invasion and Surface did a lot of this. Oh, they're going to discover-- Oh, wait, they didn't. Oh, he's going to tell her-- Oh... no, he didn't.

Lots of empty boxes.

Then there's another kind of bad gift-giving, one also used by DH, as well as by a certain crime family drama I stopped watching ages ago. It's the Drugstore Gift Phenomenon.

You are at home waiting for your birthday celebration, and when your loved one arrives, it's with a drugstore gift. You know the kind: one hastily bought on the way home, clearly not what you wanted to get. More convenient for the giver to give, though. (Oh, and by the way, you won't get another birthday for two years.)

If the writers of The Sopranos wrote 24, the entire season would have been about Michelle Dessler's maiden aunt coping with the bad news. Sorry if you don't like it. The Michelle's Aunt story is the gift they wanted to give, and screw you.

Same with DH: "I brought you more of the Applewhites arguing, and Bree and her son glaring at each other. Where's the cake?"

As always, YMMV, but my suggestion? Follow my lead. Stop taking gifts from these people until they learn to be better shoppers and better friends.

Coppertoned Down

At least for me, one of the more remarkable revelations on television lately has been that the Coppertone baby is now wearing two bathing suits.

Yeah. It's true. I haven't looked at or thought about Coppertone's sunbaked tyke in years, but I happened to glance at a commercial last night and realized that the dog is now pulling down her bathing suit to reveal... another bathing suit.


Putting aside for the moment the oddity of a child wearing two bathing suits, hasn't the point been lost? Wasn't it to show the tan line on the baby? Now it's just... what?

The top picture is the original Coppertone baby. Beneath it is the logo of the last few years. I can't even find a large enough picture of the new one, the triumph of puritanism over logic. It's not that I'm a frustrated baby-ass fan, I'm just a fan of ads that make sense.

Can it really be that people who read the Saturday Evening Post, with covers by Norman Rockwell, were less easily offended than we are today? That Richie Cunningham and the other Eisenhower-era youth were more able to withstand Coppertone's "smut" than today's kids?

What has happened to us? It's a baby! A cartoon baby, ferchrissake. And it's part of the American iconography.

If you want to modernize it, by the way, put a sun hat on the poor kid.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Hey, look, I was mad after the election, but I wasn't that mad."

-- what Al Gore tells those patting him down when he gets pulled out of airport lines

Monday, May 22, 2006

Keith Barry: Extraordinary

While David Blaine was wasting everyone's time, Keith Barry had a CBS special that was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Too bad they didn't tell anyone about it. If you get a chance to see it, do so. (The Rubik's Cube trick alone is mindblowing.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Genius Trailer Mashup

Breathtaking Images

A friend sent me to this remarkable portfolio site, Platinum FMD. Just beautiful. There are many more pictures there, each more stunning than the one before. You have to see them full-screen to appreciate them.

I Took the Windows-on-a-Mac Plunge

Yesterday I installed Windows XP on my MacBook Pro. It was a leap of faith, a little like pouring a cup of polluted water into a crystalline stream. But at least for the next few months, there are a couple of programs I need Windows for. So I closed my eyes and went for it.

Using Boot Camp, the process went perfectly. The MacBook was blazingly fast as a Mac, and it's now also the fastest Windows laptop I've ever had. (Of course, part of that is that I installed just the OS, and not all the crap that usually comes loaded onto a laptop.)

Anyway, as wrong as it feels to look at a Mac with an XP screen, it's come in damn handy several times. I needed some Windows files from some old Zip discs (remember those?) and it was so nice not to have to change computers. And for those of you with a Slingbox, until they come out with Mac software, the software works perfectly on a MacBook running XP.