Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Other Bad Thing About Lost Finishing Its Season... that the incredibly entertaining Lost podcast is on hiatus, too.

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof are unbelievably witty and self-deprecating hosts. Theirs is the only Lost podcast I listen to, because it manages to illuminate the show's Easter Eggs while never revealing spoilers. They also answer fan questions, usually with total candor.

The show is also damn funny. On the last podcast of the season, they mused that the giant stone four-toed foot could potentially be a relic of a civilization that worshiped Homer Simpson. (They also admitted that such a revelation would be very unpopular with the fans. I, personally, would love it!)

Anyway, this podcast is an essential companion piece to the best drama on TV.

What's Wrong With the Media, In One Sentence

"How would you answer reports that you have Alzheimer's?!"

-- reporter shouting at Elizabeth Taylor as she left CNN after appearing on Larry King Live the other night.

Never mind the rudeness of the question. Never mind the rudeness of shouting. Never mind the rudeness of shouting at a woman of advanced years. Never mind that I don't know anyone who had heard those reports. Never mind that I don't know anyone who cares about those reports. And never mind the futility and rudeness of shouting at her if the reports were true. And never mind that there is, after all, a war on.

Let's instead just focus on one thing: She had just come out of an interview devoted, as I understand it, to answering that very question.

And that's what's wrong with the media.

The iLounge Free iPod Book 2.0

iLounge is the essential website for all things iPod, and the first place I turn for detailed, unbiased iPod accessory reviews and articles. Their free iPod book is an invaluable resource. It's available for downloading in print and widescreen formats.

The Tony Hawk of Scissors

Gizmodo brings us these Shredding Scissors, which allow you to really lay waste to credit card applications, phone bills, or other sensitive materials. I once threw out two years' worth of credit card bills, but not before shredding them and soaking the pieces overnight in a sink full of water and bleach... but then again, I'm paranoid.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

No National Monuments or Icons

"National Monuments or Icons: 0"

So said a Department of Homeland Security worksheet of New York, first capitol of the United States, and the place where George Washington was sworn in as our first President.

The report was meant to justify the Bush Administration's decision to slash anti-terrorism funding for the relatively insignificant New York and Washington D.C., while diverting funds to cradles of liberty like Ohio and Florida. These are, not coincidentally, swing states. (And one of them has a Bush for a governor.)

In the president's defense, the Stock Exchange and United Nations and Empire State Building clearly do not present as attractive a terrorist target as the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Some Things Never Come Together, Parallel Lines Running On Forever"

With apologies to Todd Rundgren -- who along with Randy Newman, Pete Townshend, and Warren Zevon makes up the Holy Quaternity of Rock -- sometimes things do come together, and in the most unlikely ways.

I've written before about Boot Camp, which lets you put Windows on a Mac, and perhaps even snakes on a plane. It's a simple, elegant solution: Need to be in Windows? Reboot into Windows. Need a Mac? Reboot into OSX. I tried it, and it works perfectly.

But I do confess I got tired of the rebooting... even though both Windows and OSX boot really fast on a MacBook Pro. I still felt like Homer, staring at a microwave oven impatiently.

So I tried Parallels. If you haven't heard of this software, prepare to have your mind blown: Parallels not only runs Windows on a Mac, it runs Windows
in a window on a Mac. I mean, like, the fastest Windows computer you've ever seen, running in a window on your Mac Desktop. It's superb.

You can try a very stable pre-release version for free, and pre-order it at a significant savings. Just the ability to cut and paste between OS's is worth the price of admission. And unlike Boot Camp, which limits you to Windows XP SP2, Parallels lets you install Linux or Windows Media or, I don't know, probably Commodore 64 if you're so inclined.

Anyway, check it out. It's awesome, and it helps make the MacBook Pro the perfect computer. (Although, like Shakira, its bottom is blazing hot.)

The HP Coliseum

The HP Coliseum is a videoconferencing system with a difference. It places a live 3-D-ish projection of you in the remote location.

We are getting closer and closer to the virtual reality bodysuit. And as Dennis Miller once noted, "The day an unemployed ironworker can lie in his BarcaLounger with a Foster’s in one hand and a channel-flicker in the other and fuck Claudia Schiffer for $19.95, it’s gonna make crack look like Sanka."

The Tao of Paris

Here is Paris Hilton "singing" and" dancing" at Tao in the Venetian Hotel. If you have ever made fun of Ashlee Simpson or Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, you owe them an apology.

By the way, how is it possible to spend every night of your life in clubs and still be unable to move to music?

A Slingbox Demonstration, In Case You Don't Yet Believe Me That This is the Coolest Thing Ever

How to Boil Water with a Chopstick

Face it, you've got bunches of old chopsticks in a drawer. (They make great coffee stirrers, by the way)

A random, quick and useful tip: If you want to use a microwave to boil water, it will go much faster if you just stand a wooden chopstick in your cup or glass. It does the equivalent of "poking a hole" in the surface of the water, letting the water inside heat more evenly.

Not only will the water boil faster, but you'll avoid the dreaded hot geyser effect that sometimes comes when you break the surface of pent-up, superheated water.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Pubic Library: Slowest News Day Ever, Unluckiest Perv Ever, Skeeviest Reporter Ever, Strangest Video Ever

DMCA 2.0

I find that a lot of people I know don't have any idea what the Digital Millenium Copyright Act is, and they certainly don't know about the new one (nicknamed 2.0) squishing its way through the bowels of our government right now.

Imagine spending ten years in jail for illegally copying a song. Now imagine not knowing what "illegally copying" means until you're in orange overalls. Now you understand the DMCA 2.0.

As has often been pointed out, you don't get ten years for shoplifting a CD, so why should you get ten years for ripping or downloading one? And the law is so broad, so vague, that no one will actually know whether he's breaking it or not until he ends up in court. At the sole discretion of the RIAA.

(By the way, you don't get ten years for manslaughter, or attempted murder! And I've always thought they should eliminate "attempted murder" as a charge anyway. Why, if you stab me twenty times, and I manage to crawl five miles to a hospital and fight to survive, should you get your charge reduced? But I digress.)

Copyright is important, and should be protected, but not at the expense of decency and dignity. Consumers' rights and the interests of corporations are supposed to be a tug of war, but our end of the rope always seems to be greased.

It's unfair (I've paid for Quadrophenia alone over a dozen times in my life) and it's bad business: you cannot treat your customers like criminals without turning them into... well... criminals.

Like Net Neutrality and the Broadcast Flag and the Sony Rootkit and DRM, this is another example of an issue that isn't "sexy" enough for the media to cover, yet it seriously affects our lives. Stay informed. and the EFF are good places to start, or just search Google News for those terms from time to time.

Trust me, the DMCA and Net Neutrality are infinitely more important to you and me than the estate tax or immigration reform, or any of the other shiny objects being waved in front of us on a daily basis.

Can the Cone of Silence Be Far Behind?

Time has the story of the possible invention of a "cloak of invisibility." It has something to do with meta-material and electromagnetism. Haven't we all learned recently not to monkey with electromagnets?

I always had an idea for an Invisible House. If I lived in one of those houses in Malibu on the PCH, I think I would train an HD camera on the beach behind my house, and then cover the highway side of my house with a huge TV screen that shows the live picture of what's behind it. Voila: the house, she is no longer there.

Of course, the downside is, when I trained my camera on the girl next door doing yoga on her deck, thousands of commuters would know.

A Suggested Idol Rule Change To Make It Fairer In the Future

So, here's a modest proposal:

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that if I wanted to buy a 2-minute ad in the middle of a Wednesday night American Idol results show with a celebrity endorser, it would cost roughly two million dollars. (I'm probably not far off.)

When Rebecca Romijn says Taylor Hicks is her favorite contestant and "spontaneously" suggests he please do another song, it is absolutely no different than if she said, "Kraft Deli Deluxe American Cheese is my favorite cheese, and here's a two-minute film on how great it is." And I'm guessing Fox wouldn't let her do that.

I'm also guessing that if some billionaire wanted to buy two-minute ads with celebrity endorsers in the same show for the other contestants, Fox wouldn't let them do that, either.

So I say, change that rule. Even the playing field.

In the future, if Idol is going to pick one contestant to get a celebrity endorsement and an extra performance -- a unique two-minute commercial -- they should offer the same chance to other contestants.

Let's give the Idol hopefuls time during the ad breaks. Two-minute spots for songs and celebrity pitches.

"Hi, I'm Jennifer Aniston, and I'd like to talk to you about my friend, Katharine McPhee..."

Or Keith Urban for a Kellie Pickler. Or Bruce Willis for an Elliott Yamin.

After all, the Ford and Coke and Cingular commercials are in the show, so it's only fair that the people in the show get to advertise during the commercial breaks.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Odds & Sods

I'm terrified of the media world, a place where Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters are considered "warm." Instead of what I consider them: icy, brittle, and scary.

Why does Chris Matthews insist on pronouncing the Vice President's name as "Cheeeney" whenever he reads it off the prompter?

Why does there have to be this huge time gap between The Apprentice and Big Brother?

The fatal flaw of the TV Guide Channel, IMHO, is that it's an anachronism. In the age of TiVo, we haven't all watched the same shows at the same time. So shows where people sit around and dish about what happened on TV are just not appetizing, because we're not all on the same page anymore. I used to like the TV Guide podcasts, but once I fell behind in my viewing, they just became spoilerfests without warnings, so I bagged them.

Even though Idol is over, after two weeks of blaming Katharine for songs she didn't choose, I think the judges should just keep it going. They should keep calling her at home and blaming her for other things out of her control. Like the war. Or the weather.

Speaking of the weather, I agree with Roger Ebert: It doesn't seem fair that one X-Man just has metal nails, while another can literally change the weather.

I am, as regular readers know, a loyal Democrat. Bill Clinton is one of my heroes. But Hillary Clinton is not even remotely a Democrat.

Speaking of which, I remind everyone that Bush, Cheney and Rice focused entirely on Iraq invasion plans at their first meeting post-election with William Cohen. Before 9/11. And it was President Bush who leaked the NSA wiretap story, almost five years ago, and then assured the public it wasn't true. Just remember those two things, and you'll see that nearly everything else this administration has said since is, by definition, a lie.

I just happened to see Spiderman and Fantastic Four, and I think we should strictly prohibit the sale of metal head masks to billionaires. And a non-movie mask question: who buys clear plastic face masks besides criminals? Why do they even make them?

After seeing the hilarious Jake Effect on Bravo, I'm dying to know what was put on the air instead of this brilliant show.

I will watch almost anything in HD, given a choice.

With the stroke of the President's pen, he can now invalidate any law, search any home without reason, imprison any citizen without cause, torture and execute anyone without a trial, and eavesdrop on any phone call without a warrant. But searching the office of a congressman filmed taking a bribe? An outrageous abuse of Executive Branch power, according to Congress. Nice to know who they care about.

And I'm s
till bothered by the dead girls in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercials.