Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 09, 2007
Okay, so Idol impressed me when the surprise announcement turned out to be not only a surprise, but something really important.
But sadly, there's no chance of an Era of Good Feelings. Last night Randy said something so irritating, so hypocritical, so... GRRR!
He told Jared that his downfall was a lack of originality... that originality is what it's all about. If you Google "randy idol originality" you'll see this is a note he strikes in interviews quite often. It's about originality, uniqueness, individuality, standing out...
Take Lakisha. Whenever she sings, the underside of the judges' table is dripping with Randy's batter spatter. Yet there is not one original thing about Lakisha. She is the seventeenth generation photocopy of the same singer they've had at least two of every season. She does the same bit, has the same moves, sings the same songs, and is exactly as unlikely to ever have a hit single. She may be a great singer, but to quote Dr. Mark Craig, she is about as original as a doughnut.
If the show were truly about the nexus between originality and talent, then Gina and Chris would be the final two. But they won't be. So let's not pretend originality is what it's all about. (Especially not with Diana Ross being exhumed for next week's show.)
But still I watch. Because if I didn't, I would have missed the chance to say hello to Kellie Pickler's little friends.
The era of on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand liberalism is over-- or as Robert Frost once wrote, "a liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel."
Thursday, March 08, 2007
If You Saw Bruce Willis' Apartment in The Fifth Element and Thought, "Hey, I'd Like to Live Like That!"...
...then Functional Tiles are perfect for you.
I loved The X-Files. Loved it. But the only thing they used to do that was kinda squirrely was what I called the "MO Switcheroo."
See, the killer/psycho/ghoul would go up to his victims and slash 'em up wick/wack/wook. Lightning fast. Or we'd see him strangle them or suck them dry or whatever. Jack, you dead. One victim after another.
Until he snuck up on Scully. Then he'd suddenly change his MO. He'd kidnap her and drag her back to his lair to prepare to kill her... giving Mulder plenty of time to rescue her. Seemed like cheating.
I'm afraid Heroes is pulling an MO Switcheroo.
This Sylar guy has killed again and again, Benihana-style. Shwink! Bye-bye. Now he's stapling people to the ceiling (huh?) and (most uncharacteristically) drawing his head-slicey verrrrrrry slowwwwwwwly. Why, exactly? To give Peter/Scully time to escape.
And what are the rules with Niksica? Seriously. Now she's a prisoner, now she's not a prisoner, one is out, the other is out, they're both boring. And isn't the husband an escaped convict? Why is he a house husband without a care in the world?
And who was the shapeshifter girl? Did we see her before? If not, don't we have, like, three or four characters who look just like her? Can I get a copy of The List, so I can keep track of all these people?
(And how does she shapeshift not just herself, but the room behind her? That is some kinda shapeshifter.)
Meanwhile, I'm officially out of Jericho. The only thing we've learned from the "exciting new season" is that the bombs were apparently an experimental new technology that only kills interesting people.
As for Lost, I'm swimming against the tide, but I love this show more and more every week. Except... for the first time ever, I saw something in last night's superb episode I found hard to believe. I mean, I believed in the smoke monster, ferchrissake... but I don't believe Locke is as dumb as he acted last night.
Flip4Mac, the folks who picked up Windows Media support for the Mac and ran with it -- beautifully -- have a clever new program in beta. It's called Drive-in, and it's the perfect way to copy your DVD's onto your hard drive and still feel virtuous, since it rips the DVD with the content protection intact.
Drive-in creates an exact image of your DVD, as well as downloading all the details of the film from Amazon to create a virtual "DVD case." When you're on the road, just select one of your DVD cases, and you can use Mac's DVD Player or Front Row to watch the movie, complete with menus and special features.
The beta is free, but when the program is released the DRM will lock down and you'll have to buy the software (for around fifty bucks).
It's your data, you paid for it. Drive-in is a nifty one-step tool that lets you legally exercise your right to use that data.
This morning Today had a piece about rebate problems. I was looking forward to it. Psych!
As usual, more than half the piece was spent establishing that there is a problem, and the rest was of no use to me. Like most consumer pieces it went like this: People are angry, why people are angry, here's a guy on the street getting angry, what the problem is, why there's a problem, what are rebates, why do they offer rebates anyway, what goes wrong, what are some companies doing to fix it, blah, blah, blah.
I've seen this same issue addressed on podcasts and video podcasts. They cut right to the solutions. They assumed we already knew what the problem is with rebates, because we haven't spent our lives in isolation pods.
Old media do the report for people who know nothing about the report.
New media do the report for people who are interested in the report.
And I think we all know how Star Jones marks her territory: she uses her rough, fleshy hindquarters to spread her excrement around the area.
Anyway, it makes perfect sense for CourtTV to add lusus naturae Jones to its freak show. Though I believe her first program should force her to take the bar exam on air, live. After all, she claims to be an attorney, yet she famously persists in claiming that adding the word "allegedly" to a sentence makes it okay to say anything you want... something any thinking person will tell you is obviously ridiculous.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Right now Antonella is singing, and man oh man... I can't stick up for her any more. She should be proud of making it this far, but this should be the end.
But I can use her as a perfect illustration of what contestants on this show repeatedly do wrong. It is the mistake that has undone more contestants than any other, and I'm shocked that people still make it.
Contestants come out and sing a wobbly first verse in a key that is too low for them with notes they can't sustain, because the second verse is when they get a chance to kick it up into the registers they're really good in. You can see them thinking, "Don't worry when I'm down here, because I'll be really good up there."
See, what makes great singers great is they're great down here and up there. Mostly because their songs are written no lower nor higher than flatters them. Hell, Nelly has never sung a song with more than two notes. (I'm right you know. I'm right. Man I'm right you know. ) Take a page from them.
If you sound good high, don't pick a song that starts low. Even if it's super-dramatic when Whitney or Christina did it. 'Cause you ain't them.
Ah, who'm I kidding? The Idol kids aren't reading this blog. The guys are probably ironing their hair and having their eyebrows waxed. I don't know what the girls are doing, but I hope it involves pillow fights.
Last Night Bill O'Reilly Had the Gall to Lecture Bill Maher on Making One's Point Without Personal Attacks and Name-Calling
"I was having dinner last night with some Hollywood pinheads."
[To Howard Stern] "Do you like to hang out with these pinhead movie stars?"
"The far-left paper Newsday printed yet another column today accusing me and John Gibson of fabricating the war on Christmas. Listen up, you pinheads, Christmas is over. The battle was real."
"Do you want this job, Snow? Do you want face these pinheads, these unbelievable cretins in the White House briefing room every day?"
"Well, Kristof doesn't know what he's talking about, but he objects to me calling him a left-wing ideologue. Yet he prints material from a left wing smear site, claiming I want the Air America pinheads put in jail. That riff on "The Radio Factor" was humorous talk radio hyperbole, as anybody listening would know... How nuts is this guy?!
[imitating John Kerry] "'Fox News attacked me' -- aw, you're a -- he's a sissy. He's a sissy. I knew it when he couldn't throw the ball at Fenway Park -- he's a sissy. You're a sissy... Yeah, Senator, with all due respect, you're a sissy. Get the kids health insurance, I'm with you -- you're a sissy."
"anti-American actor Sean Penn."
"[Al Gore's] got the Béla Lugosi haircut going on now."
"It was extremely mean-spirited, personal attacks on me by a guy named Dan Radmacher, a left-wing loon."
[Al Franken is a] "man without scruples, a far-left fanatic"
[George Clooney and Barbra Streisand are] "fanatics"
"Not only are you both guilty; you're both stupid."
"I mean, what I don't get about Susan Sarandon and her fellow S-P travelers is the constant anger"
Bill Orally did the funniest thing last night. And by "funny" I mean "tragic" and "horrifying."
Discussing the Irving Libby verdict, Bill kept asking his guests how someone could be guilty of perjury when "there was no underlying crime." Bill maintains that if Fitzgerald had proof that Valerie Plame was a covert agent, he would have charged Libby with the full Monty, and that failing to do so somehow gives everyone involved... I don't know... license to lie?
No matter how many times his guests tried to impress upon Bill the moral and legal importance of telling the truth, Bill could not be swayed. At the end of the interview he seemed even more exasperated than usual. So for future reference: until there is proof a crime has been committed, you cannot count on Bill O'Reilly to tell the truth, even under oath. Good to know.
Now, to The View. If I told you one of the View-lociraptors disparaged our troops, you'd think Rosie, right? Maybe Joy?
The other day, Elisabeth Shitheadbeck said something so astonishingly stupid that even the stick up her ass must have done a double-take. The others didn't hear her, because she said it under her breath (where she says her oh-so-stupidest things).
If you've seen the show, you know the tone of voice I'm talking about. Someone has just said something that makes Elisabeth soooooo mad, and you can tell her ears are burning hot, and she looks down at the table and plays with her coffee mug, and says something unbelievably untrue in a soft monotonous voice. Usually something she heard on Fox News, where she gets all her information on news and living and thinking and breathing. (This morning she said Hannity & Colmes always presents all sides, so that's where she's coming from.)
Anyhoo, back to the other day. In discussing the shameful neglect at Walter Reed, Rosie or Joy made reference to the undeniable, accepted fact that our troops were sent into battle with insufficient body armor.
And Lis murmured something into her coffee... something like, "Welllll, actually the troops were all given body armor, but many chose not to wear it because it was too heavy."
Cut to: me doing a spit take.
Did I just hear Elisabeth Coozelbeck blaming the troops for their own casualties? Did I actually hear her imply that American soldiers would have died in lesser numbers if they just hadn't been so "lazy"?
How can she possibly look at her rancid self in the mirror? And can you imagine what would have happened if Rosie had said that?
And then on to the Administration itself, appointing a bipartisan commission to investigate conditions at Walter Reed. Didn't the Washington Post already investigate those conditions? For four months? With photos? And didn't Congress just interview witnesses?
Here's my idea: Let's take every member of our armed forces who's receiving less than the best and put them, right now, into the finest hospitals in America. I once had surgery at Cedars and was fortunate enough to be put in the VIP wing, which was about as plush as you can imagine. Let's put our troops there.
And if there's no room in Cedars and Johns Hopkins and so on, then let's put them two-in-a-room at the Four Seasons. Rent a couple of floors at the Four Seasons in each town, and put doctors and nurses on each floor.
How much could it possibly cost? Considering that the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq misplaced nine billion dollars, and nobody in the administration is looking for it, I'm fairly certain they have enough loose money to get our bravest whatever they need before the investigation is done.
These men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It would be ironic if Dick Cheney, the man who put them in harm's way for his own nefarious reasons, received a higher standard of medical care.
Please, Mitsubishi Outlander... No mas!
I already go to bed with that goddamn Fall song in my head every night. I've already vowed never to buy one of your fucking cars. Now I'm about ready to steal one, fill it with C-4, and drive it into your company headquarters.
Please. For all our sakes. Get a new song.
The Idol Contestant Who Must Be Hit in the Face Immediately With a Cinder Block or a Microwave Oven or Other Large Object
And to think, until last night I actually kinda liked this asshole.
On a larger note, last night's American Idol sort of crystallized a pattern, and if this is typical of what the show's going to be from now on, I might just deal myself out.
First come a bunch of crappy performances, which the judges call crappy. Then an okay performance (Jared), which the judges call crappy. Then a couple of good performances (Brandon and Chris), which the judges call crappy. Then good night.
I think it's time to airlift in a whole new batch of contestants.
For years, the Today Show website has been my white whale, my archenemy.
Whenever I've seen something on the show I wanted to learn more about, I followed the on-air advice to head to today.msnbc.com. And when I got there, I found the most disorganized mess I'd ever seen. Stories from today, stories from last week, stories from a month ago, promotions that had long since ended, ads-after-ads-after-ads, Ann Curry's every-two-months blog, some links to things that God-knows-who cares about...
Everything except what I wanted.
And we're not talking about esoteric info. If they do a series of product demos, shouldn't there be product info somewhere? If they do author interviews, shouldn't there be a list of book links? If they report on a website, shouldn't the link appear somewhere?
Shouldn't there be one page, somewhere on the Today website, that lets you click on "Wednesday" and get a rundown of headlines of features from that day's shows? In other words, show notes? Like every podcast done in someone's basement somehow manages to do?
Anyway, it's been a burr under my saddle for a while. So imagine my delight when Today started flogging their brand new website, todayshow.com! A new address, a new design, "one of the newest innovations"...
Fantastic! I'll check it out...
D'oh! It's the same site!!
Type in todayshow.com and you are redirected to the old today.msnbc.com site, only it's salmony-orange now instead of blue. I guess that's the iVillage influence.
Still, ever the optimist, I actually looked for a story I was interested in learning more about. It was a Bob Dotson profile of a woman who risked her life rescuing Jewish babies from the Nazis, and the high school kids in Kansas who discovered her story.
Was it on the main page? No. What if I click on Wednesday? No, I don't know what that did. Search for "Kansas" and "Nazis"? Lots of unrelated stories from other shows, but no luck. What if I add "Bob Dotson"? Now the search turns up no results.
I was ready to give up. Then I saw the umpteenth promo for the website on the show, and they showed a page of the site with the headline "Life in a Jar." I thought this might be paydirt (the extraordinarily brave woman in the story placed the babies with Catholic families, but buried their real names in a jar for after the war.)
So, having seen on TV that the site had the words "Life in a Jar" I searched for the words "Life in a Jar."
And found something about food safety. Aw, come on!
By now I was obsessed. So I froze the frame on the TV and typed in the URL they were showing, which for some reason included the word "allday."
Of course! Why didn't I just randomly type in words involving "day" in the first place?
thisday.msnbc.msn.com, oneday.msnbc.msn.com, goodday.msnbc.msn.com, saintcrispinsday.msnbc.msn.com... Let's all just quit our jobs now and start typing in random words, hoping to find NBC's web content.
Anyway, having frozen the screen and uncovered the URL and followed the map on the back of the Declaration of Independence I had apparently fulfilled all the steps necessary to earn the Easter Egg: there was the "Life in a Jar..." article. Turns out it was a blog post by the producer of the piece... or something.
Okay, I was getting closer.
Within the blog post was a link to video of the piece. Huzzah! Not the "more information" I was looking for, but by now I was grateful for any confirmation that I hadn't imagined the whole thing.
So my advice to you, if you watch Today, is not to go to the website, but instead to simply hope they show the page you're interested in onscreen, and that it's clear enough to make out the URL if they do.
That's a super-useful web design, isn't it?
Since I wrote this, they have added the following link to the main page.
If you can decipher the headline "Hiding in history's shadows" please let me know. Still, the microscopic picture of kids in period costume might have helped me in my search... if I had seen it, and if it had it been posted within an hour or two of the story's airing. Still, can a brother get show notes and a working search?