Tuesday, December 20, 2005

F#*k the Creationists

Thanks to John Rogers and Ed Brayton for spreading the good word: Judge John E. Jones III of Pennsylvania has ruled that "intelligent design (ID)" may NOT be taught in Dover's public schools.

Rogers calls it "[a] breathtakingly thorough judicial smackdown"; Brayton says "we won really, really big. This decision could not be any better for us or any worse for ID." Amen to that, brothers. Upon reading the news this morning, I shed tears of joy. That's not an exaggeration.

And here it is, from the horse's mouth (my emphasis below):
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

-- Conclusion, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District et al.
Score one for the good guys. Read all about it (PDF).

Monday, December 19, 2005

the bad taste of del.icio.us

Today's error message:
Due to the power outage earlier in the week, we appear a number of continued hiccups. [sic] We've taken everything offline to properly rebuild and restore everything. I apologize and hope to have this resolved as soon as possible. Thank you for your continued patience.

Updates will be posted on our blog as we have them.
Now, as I said before, I wish to imply absolutely no causative relationship between del.icio.us' recent service problems and their new owner, Yahoo!. As del.icio.us themselves said when the power went out on December 14th: "we are obviously not yet on the Yahoo! infrastructure, and this is exactly the kind of stuff they can do a lot better for us (and you.)"

I'd just like to restate my earlier observation: Yahoo! has bought del.icio.us, and del.icio.us now sucks. Leaping to conclusions is left as an exercise for the reader.

I hope it gets better soon.

(On a related note, we also had a power outage at home this morning, around 0700J. D said she heard some kind of noise outside, and then our three UPSes started beeping the running-on-battery-power symphony. After shutting everything down, we went outside to check the breakers, and our neighbor two houses down pointed out a red light on the transformer atop our nearest utility pole and said that it usually takes PG&E a while to get to it after a storm, since it only feeds five or six houses-- not even the whole block. One of our cats spent about an hour exploring the unusually silent house.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Scott Adams should stick to drawing comics

So the guy who draws Dilbert has written a book called God's Debris, which you can download as a PDF and read for free, and in doing so has crossed the border into the land of crazy old men-- jumping the shark, if you will, and losing most, if not all, credibility outside the field of cartooning. IMHO.

The book is basically a retread of Richard Bach's Illusions, but much more didactic and concerned with the physical nature of the universe-- not a bad thing to consider, but it's unfortunate that Adams clearly has no deep understanding of probability, quantum mechanics, gravity, or electromagnetic theory, instead setting them up as paper tigers which he attempts to supplant with his own theory of "God-dust" (yes, it is as kooky as it sounds). It's pretty embarrassing, actually.

I also disagree with the assertion, in the introduction, that "[p]eople under the age of fourteen should not read [this book]." Any real science fiction fan will tell you that he or she had already churned through most of Adams' ideas by that age, and probably knew a hell of a lot more actual science than he seems to.

And any high school debate team would have serious problems with his critical thinking skills-- he selectively chooses evidence to support his goofball theories, conveniently ignoring the bulk of evolutionary theory while accepting the Big Bang as gospel truth. WTF?

As a counterpoint, I offer this list of much better books and other media which provide perspective on the same philosophical issues:
  • Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan, which deals with evolution and extraordinary evidence;
  • anything by Philip K. Dick, but especially Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, for ideas about memory and perceived reality;
  • Albert Einstein's Relativity, which should be required reading for any college-level physics student;
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (also available in movie form), which will-- no kidding-- blow your mind;
  • Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, because really, nothing beats primary sources;
  • the movie Mindwalk, in which characters actually understand quantum phenomena, even though their discussion is still lightweight; and
  • the Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (also on DVD), which demonstrates that not all skeptics are irrational cultists, as Adams claims in his book.
Provoking thought is never a bad thing, but there are better ways to do it than pimping your own wacked-out philosophy and claiming that it's "the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read." Not even close, dude. I've got an entire bookshelf that makes you a liar.

I just hope Adams isn't trying to start his own religion here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Marketing Gone Wild

So I'm reading The Onion today, and I click through to one of their stories and have to endure an interstitial ad that asks "Are you a loser?" I skip it, of course, but after I read the story, I notice that there are more banner ads for the same thing.

Loath to actually click on a fucking animated banner ad, I instead enter the URL which is displayed therein: www.loserloserloser.com. This gets me to a web site claiming to be "A Space For Losers, By Losers". The layout looks a bit like modernhumorist.com, but it's got Maxtor ads all over the place-- and only Maxtor ads. Strange.

So I check the domain registration, and whaddya know?
Registrant:
Maxtor Corporation
2452 Clover Basin Drive
Longmont, CO 80503
US

Domain Name: LOSERLOSERLOSER.COM

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
Maxtor Corporation
Web Team
2452 Clover Basin Drive
Longmont, CO 80503
US
303-682-4836
303-678-2182 [fax]
domains@maxtor.com

Domain created on 14-Nov-2005
Domain expires on 14-Nov-2007
Last updated on 17-Nov-2005

Domain servers in listed order:

NS.RACKSPACE.COM
NS2.RACKSPACE.COM
Now that's just not cool. I mean, the web site claims to be "Issue 12 | December 2005", which is clearly a lie because the domain was only registered last month. And all the content is designed to steer the reader toward buying a Maxtor backup product. That's downright evil.

There's advertising, and there's marketing, and then there's propaganda. I'm reminded of an interview in the documentary The Corporation, where the CEO of a "stealth marketing" company talks about how consumers can be influenced by marketing messages disguised as real-life interactions. That's insulting to both the consumer and the product, because you're admitting that your product isn't good enough to sell on its own merits, and you're trying to trick the consumer into buying something. What's that saying about a fool and his money?

Anyway, to bring it all back full circle, this week's Onion also includes the story "I'd Love This Product Even If I Weren't A Stealth Marketer". America's Finest News Source, indeed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Donald Duck's Family Tree

Just in case you were wondering: yes, Donald Duck appears to be of Scottish descent. Though there is also some weird inter-species shit going on to the far right of that tree. Ewww.

This guy has diagrammed family trees for many Disney characters. (And you thought you had no life.) It's interesting that the Duck family tree seems to be the most extensive-- is this because he did the most research on it, or because Disney produced the greatest amount of source material based on Donald Duck?

Try not to let that keep you awake tonight.

del.icio.us not so delicious anymore

You know, I've been using the del.icio.us online bookmarking service for a while. And while it's been slow sometimes, it's never spewed system errors like I started seeing this week:
System error
error: Can't call method "prepare" on an undefined value at /www/del.icio.us/comp/user/get line 13.
context:
...
9: my $usedb = 'master';
10: my $ret;
11:
12: if (!$auth_user) { $usedb = 'user' }
13: if (!exists ($db->{$usedb})) { $usedb = 'master' }
14: $user_name_q->{$usedb} = $db->{$usedb}->prepare('select * from users where user_name = ?');
15: my $query = $user_name_q->{$usedb};
16: $query->execute(lc($user_name));
17:
...
code stack: /www/del.icio.us/comp/user/get:13
/www/del.icio.us/site/dhandler:194
/www/del.icio.us/site/autohandler:110
raw error

Can't call method "prepare" on an undefined value at /www/del.icio.us/comp/user/get line 13.


Trace begun at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Exceptions.pm line 131
HTML::Mason::Exceptions::rethrow_exception('Can\'t call method "prepare" on an undefined value at /www/del.icio.us/comp/user/get line 13.^J') called at /www/del.icio.us/comp/user/get line 13
HTML::Mason::Commands::__ANON__('dbh', undef, 'user_name', 'sparckl', 'auth_user', 'sparckl') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Component.pm line 134
HTML::Mason::Component::run('HTML::Mason::Component::FileBased=HASH(0x1d323e0)', 'dbh', undef, 'user_name', 'sparckl', 'auth_user', 'sparckl') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 1069
eval {...} at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 1068
HTML::Mason::Request::comp(undef, undef, 'dbh', undef, 'user_name', 'sparckl', 'auth_user', 'sparckl') called at /www/del.icio.us/site/dhandler line 194
HTML::Mason::Commands::__ANON__('dbh', undef, 'auth_user', 'sparckl', 'items', 100, 'tagview', 'list', 'tagsort', 'alpha', 'bundleview', 'show', 'cookies', 'HASH(0x1d81370)', 'browser', 'ff') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Component.pm line 134
HTML::Mason::Component::run('HTML::Mason::Component::FileBased=HASH(0x1d23730)', 'dbh', undef, 'auth_user', 'sparckl', 'items', 100, 'tagview', 'list', 'tagsort', 'alpha', 'bundleview', 'show', 'cookies', 'HASH(0x1d81370)', 'browser', 'ff') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 1074
eval {...} at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 1068
HTML::Mason::Request::comp(undef, undef, 'dbh', undef, 'auth_user', 'sparckl', 'items', 100, 'tagview', 'list', 'tagsort', 'alpha', 'bundleview', 'show', 'cookies', 'HASH(0x1d81370)', 'browser', 'ff') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 760
HTML::Mason::Request::call_next('HTML::Mason::Request::ApacheHandler=HASH(0x1ed82a0)', 'dbh', undef, 'auth_user', 'sparckl', 'items', 100, 'tagview', 'list', 'tagsort', 'alpha', 'bundleview', 'show', 'cookies', 'HASH(0x1d81370)', 'browser', 'ff') called at /www/del.icio.us/site/autohandler line 110
HTML::Mason::Commands::__ANON__ at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Component.pm line 134
HTML::Mason::Component::run('HTML::Mason::Component::FileBased=HASH(0x1af7990)') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 1069
eval {...} at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 1068
HTML::Mason::Request::comp(undef, undef, undef) called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 338
eval {...} at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 338
eval {...} at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/Request.pm line 297
HTML::Mason::Request::exec('HTML::Mason::Request::ApacheHandler=HASH(0x1ed82a0)') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/ApacheHandler.pm line 134
eval {...} at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/ApacheHandler.pm line 134
HTML::Mason::Request::ApacheHandler::exec('HTML::Mason::Request::ApacheHandler=HASH(0x1ed82a0)') called at /usr/share/perl5/HTML/Mason/ApacheHandler.pm line 793
HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler::handle_request('HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler=HASH(0x1ab5610)', 'Apache=SCALAR(0x1efda90)') called at (eval 43) line 8
HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler::handler('HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler', 'Apache=SCALAR(0x1efda90)') called at /dev/null line 0
eval {...} at /dev/null line 0
Now, without implying any sort of causal relationship, I'd also like to point out that Yahoo! bought del.icio.us last week. Perhaps the del.icio.us servers just weren't ready to withstand the onslaught of new users and gawkers attracted by the publicity. Perhaps del.icio.us should have expected and prepared for such an eventuality.

Yahoo! bought del.icio.us, and now del.icio.us has begun to suck.

I'm just saying.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I hate wikis

I have to maintain documentation on wikis as part of my work, and I hate it. And earlier today, as I was spitting expletives at my computer screen, I realized why I hate editing wikis so much: for the same reason that no one speaks Esperanto.

Every damn wiki system has its own peculiar formatting syntax. MoinMoin uses ''double quotes'' for italics and '''triple quotes''' for bold. TWiki uses _underscores_ for italics and *asterisks* for bold. Similarly (or, rather, dissimilarly), one uses ==double equals== for headings, but the other uses ==the same syntax== for bolded, monospaced font. (Figuring out which is which is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Don't even get me started on indentation.

There is no clear advantage to one wiki's formatting syntax over the other. It's a standards war (read: pissing contest), and nobody wins, especially not the user who has to work with multiple, different wiki installations and keep track of which nonsensical syntax he needs to use to just get some damn text on the freaking page.

Yes, I know this wouldn't be a problem if I was editing wikis all the time. But I don't. And the fact that simple text formatting-- not hyperlinks or tables, which are even more absurd-- is so damn unusable violates the purported simplicity of wikis for casual users. They're not simple. They're not easy. They are annoying.

Just let me write the damn HTML myself, so I can learn one standard to apply to multiple sites, or give me a WYSIWYG "compose" mode like Blogger does. Please.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sight Gag of the Day

And Overstock.com wonders why they're not selling more of these:


"Sleek and compact design," says the product description. Uh, yeah, I suppose you could call it that.

Monday, November 28, 2005

third time's the charm

I'm done. After attempting nanowrimo twice before, I've finally won. I've written over 52,000 words and pounded out what can-- generously, perhaps, but still-- be called a novel. My first draft of my first novel.

Oh, it's still got a lot of problems. I'd never be able to publish it in its present form. It's got way too many characters, most of them poorly written, and in Hollywood parlance, it's got some major structural problems in the second act. But I've written it. From now on, I can tell people that I've actually written a novel.

I feel good.

so predictable

Didn't I tell you that this would happen?
Although it features an almost entirely Asian cast, Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha has evoked anger and calls for a boycott among some of those who have seen advance screenings of the film in Japan and China, Reuters reported today (Monday). [my link -C] According to the wire service, some Japanese are outraged that the leading roles in the film are played by Chinese actresses Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li and Chinese-Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh. On the other hand, some Chinese are upset that Chinese film stars would favorably portray Japanese, who are still remembered for their brutal occupation of China in World War II. Reuters quoted one blogger as saying of Zhang, who plays the title role: "She's sold her soul and betrayed her country. Hacking her to death would not be good enough."

-- IMDb Studio Briefing

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Homer Simpson, PBS viewer?

We are, of course, all familiar with this classic epigram from The Simpsons:
"It takes two to lie, Marge. One to lie and one to listen!"
-- Homer Simpson
Indeed, this pithy aphorism has been quoted in such publications as the political rag Reason Online. It should, therefore, surprise none of us to hear it paraphrased with a straight face in FRONTLINE's "The Diamond Empire", a would-be exposé of the De Beers monopoly:
"[L]ike all deception, the person who's deceived plays a part in the deception, as well as the deceiver. It's not a one-person act. It's two people, the deceiver and the deceived, acting in collaboration."
-- Edward Jay Epstein, author, "The Rise and Fall of Diamonds"
And lest you think that marriage has mellowed my obsessive research tendencies: "The Diamond Empire" aired on February 1, 1994. Homer's declaration occurred in "Colonel Homer" (fansub title: "Lurleen on Me"), which aired on March 26, 1992. It is clear, methinks, which of Messrs. Simpson and Epstein merits the appellation "chicken", and which gentleman we may safely call "egg".

I said good day, sir!

Friday, November 18, 2005

"First, we'll need to find the nine stupidest people in the world..."

Today's nominee for Dumbest. Idea. Ever:
'A new reality TV show is aiming to pull off the biggest hoax in TV history - by persuading a group of Britons that they have been blasted into space...

'Nine people will be told they are set to visit the final frontier as space tourists and that in preparation they will undergo intensive training in Russia courtesy of the Space Tourism Agency of Russia, but in reality the groups will be "trained" for space in a disused airbase in a secret location in the UK.

'Unbeknown to them, their [space] shuttle will be a Hollywood creation, made originally for the film Space Cowboys...

'Channel 4 admits that the joke could be on them if the participants, who are currently being selected from a group holed up in a secret location with no contact with the outside world, cotton on to the stunt.'

-- 'Space Cadets hoax out of this world', This is London
You can already guess what I'm going to say, right? Well, here it is anyway:

How do they expect the contestants not to figure out it's a hoax when they experience gravity in space?

Sigh.

Of course, my biggest fear is that Channel 4 didn't even have to cross the street to find more than nine people who don't know there's no appreciable gravity in Earth orbit. I remember being terribly depressed when I read a 1996 news article about how badly American adults flunked an NSF science survey. 47% of you people don't know that the Earth orbits the Sun in one year? Unbelievable.

But I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised anymore. After all, the Kansas Board of Education just rejected nearly a century and a half of evolutionary science, by voting to teach Christian creationism (let's call a spade a spade, shall we?) "alongside" the theory of evolution. And the President of the United States even supported this position. The gorram President, fer fucksake.

When, exactly, did we fall through the looking glass? How is it possible for the most technologically advanced society in the history of the world to have so many citizens-- a majority, it would seem-- who don't know the first thing about the basic science that supports their quality of life?

That's not a rhetorical question. See that "comments" link below? Use it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

nanowrimo status: just shy of 30,000 words

I spent most of last night working on my NaNoWriMo novel, after also sneaking in a few mini-sessions during the day, and my word count is now up to 29,943-- slightly ahead of schedule. Which is good, because I won't have time to write at all for the next three or four days.*

It's also good because I've now gotten to the real meat of my story. In screenplay terms, it would be the middle of act two, when everything goes horribly wrong for our heroes and the central crisis reaches its peak. Actually, I'm probably not quite at the middle of act two yet, because things will get a bit worse after this.

I'll be the first to admit that the finished novel-- at least, this first draft of it-- will be an incoherent mess. Up until this point, I've had the actual history of the real Apollo 8 mission to act as an outline, but now I'm completely making shit up. I plan to crib a little from Apollo 13, the movie (since I can use Jim Lovell, and who doesn't love Tom Hanks?), but I have no idea where the whole werewolf thing is going. Seriously. No freaking clue. Making it up with each paragraph.

It's an unfamiliar and freeing feeling, and I'm quite enjoying it.

* Tonight: Beauty and the Beast. Thursday: Richter Scales rehearsal. Friday: Harry Potter. Saturday: Hornblower dinner cruise.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Television Revolution is at the Gates

What have I been saying, huh? The Television Revolution is at the Gates.

Now, I admit that I drooled a little when the new video iPod hit the streets. But then I peeped the specs, and wasn't so impressed. Half VGA resolution? NTSC video? No widescreen? Eh. I'm not saying I wouldn't enjoy having one, but I'd much rather have an Archos AV700 (and a compatible Dish 962 DVR, but that's another rant)-- or the real killer app, which I'm sure will, sadly, never happen: iTunes on PSP. Oh, if only Sony would fucking get it when it comes to digital media and hardware interoperability.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Globalization of Fiction

I just saw something that made me happy. It'll probably annoy and offend some other people, but that's their problem. I just watched the trailer for Memoirs of a Geisha.

I remember hearing about the book when it came out, especially the fact that it was written by Arthur Golden, who is most decidedly not female, Japanese, or a geisha. And I was happy then, because people were giving it good reviews based on the quality of the work, not because of any political agenda. (I suppose you could argue that divorcing the life of the artist from his or her work is a political agenda, but you could also argue that Paris Hilton is talented. I would disagree with you on both points.)

And now, DreamWorks has made a movie out of the book. In the movie, the titular protagonist is played by Zhang Ziyi, and two of the major female characters are played by Michelle Yeoh (Zhang's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star) and Gong Li. Note that all of these women are, in fact, Chinese, but are here playing Japanese characters.

Yeah, I can hear the activists complaining already. Which is funny, because I never hear anybody complain about a non-Irish actor playing an Irish character, or a non-French actor playing a Frenchman. Funny.

Here's my point: this is a story very much about Japan and its women, but it was written by an American man and is being made into an American movie with Chinese actors in prominent, starring roles. This is a good thing. And if you truly believe that people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, you should damn well agree with me.

Another bit of trivia: parts of the movie were filmed at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, where my good friends Sean and Crissy got married in May. Their celebration included an installation of Firefall, which is as close as you'll ever get to the Silver Age Planet Krypton. Very cool.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I am writing a novel.

That's right, I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month for the third time, and hoping it's the charm.

Been going well so far. I haven't written every day, but I'm over 12,000 words now and I think I have a pretty clear trajectory for at least the next week. The basic premise-- which I would never pitch as "Apollo 8 with werewolves!"-- has been percolating in my brain for a while, and it's nice to be able to refer to historical documents as I go along, to keep my story moving along.

And before any of you space geeks start complaining, yes, I'm fully aware that I'm totally making stuff up in many places, including the personalities of the astronauts and their families, but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Just wait until the capsule reaches translunar insertion. Then, as Doc Brown says, you're going to see some serious shit. You thought Jim Lovell had it rough in Apollo 13? Just wait and see what happens to him in my novel-- and no, I won't spoil it for you.

The manuscript is barely first draft, and is sure to contain numerous internal inconsistencies as well as the aforementioned historical inaccuracies, plus spelling and grammatical errors. But if you're really interested, here it is: By the Light of the Moon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Product of the Day: Ferret Hammock


"No words... No words to describe it. Poetry. They should have sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful... I had no idea..."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More Letters to the Hill

Hey, this is fun. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Action Center makes it easy to send a letter to my elected representatives by email or fax, or even to print out a hard copy. Here's the letter I just submitted to Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Representative Eshoo:
Dear __________,

As a constituent and a proponent of innovation, I am writing to voice my opposition to legislation that revives the FCC's proposed "Broadcast Flag" regulation (47 CFR 73.9002(b)), which was unanimously struck down on May 6, 2005, by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Broadcast Flag cripples any device capable of receiving over-the-air digital broadcasts. It makes digital TV hardware more expensive and less capable, impeding rather than accelerating the digital TV transition. Worse, it gives Hollywood movie studios a permanent veto over how members of the American public use our televisions and forces American innovators to beg the FCC for permission before adding new features to TV.

Media companies are threatening an HDTV boycott unless a Broadcast Flag law is passed and implemented this year. This is an empty threat. Viacom made that same threat back in 2002, yet CBS (owned by Viacom) still transmits nearly all of its prime-time shows in HDTV, even without the Broadcast Flag. For that matter, even if broadcasters like CBS aren't willing to provide programming for digital television, there are plenty of innovative new content creators who will.

Don't give the FCC the power to issue government blueprints for future technological innovation. Please oppose any attempts that might give the FCC the power to disrupt technological innovation through the implementation of the Broadcast Flag.

Thank you for your attention.
Yeah, it's a form letter, but it's better than nothing. The point of this exercise is not to change the course of mighty nations-- I have no illusions about my utter lack of power in that arena. The point is for me to do something instead of just talking about it all the time.

Small moves, Ellie.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hey kids! Do not play catch with live ammunition.

I hate to sound callous, but after the headline Three die playing catch with grenade, Reuters actually says: "It was not clear why the grenade exploded."

Hello? Because it's a fucking grenade.

The more pertinent question is, why were two people who should have known better playing catch with a hand grenade?

I'm nominating them for a Darwin Award.

Letters to Capitol Hill

I don't usually write letters to my legislative representatives-- it feels marginally more useful than signing online petitions-- but I just read a news article that chills me to the bone. I've sent the following letter by email to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Representative Anna Eshoo (Democrat, 14th Congressional District of California).
Dear _____:

Yesterday's Washington Post contained a story titled "The FBI's Secret Scrutiny" which details that agency's use of National Security Letters (NSLs) to obtain private information not available through other, legal means. That article is available online at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110501366_pf.html

After reading this, it seems clear to me that NSLs are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment guaranteeing U.S. Citizens freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Not only is the person under investigation unaware of his or her private information being disclosed, but the third party making the disclosure is barred from telling anyone else-- thus preventing any possibility of legislative oversight-- and the gag order never expires.

I would appreciate your attention to closing this loophole. It seems rife with potential for abuse.

Thank you for your time.
Thanks to Saheli Datta's blog for linking me up in the first place. IANAL, and I know nothing about politics, so I may just be venting here. But I feel better now. I feel better than James Brown.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Just Watched Serenity

The best gifts are the unexpected ones -- ones that become amazing. My friend Curtis gave me the Firefly series on DVD for my birthday. He had talked about this Western-meets-SciFi concept before where people speak bits of Chinese. It sounded novel but also sounded like it had high potential for gimmick. I also sat through more than several episodes of Buffy and Angel (created by the same writer that created/wrote Firefly), and found them over-complicated and snarky. So combined with a busy schedule, the DVD series laid unwatched for weeks.

Curtis doesn't let up easily though. "Have you watched it yet?" became his mantra. So I finally sat down to watch it. The first episode, then the second, and I think I might have finished the first disc of the 4 disc set by the time I came up for air. Astounding -- more than anything in recent history, he connected us with the characters. And though I had to endure the occasional snarky line and geeky feel, I was hooked.

The movie came out at a busy time in my life, so it's been a month or so, but I finally saw it tonight. I see some fledgling debates about whether the movie is only good if you've seen the series. I can't actually comment on that because try as I may, it's impossible to reflect on the movie as if I haven't seen the series. If you have seen the series though, DON'T MISS THIS MOVIE. It is not just a wrap-up.

Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith was supremely disappointing for me. I wasn't expecting a ton since the first two had fallen short of expectation already. But III was the worst of the three. Mostly because it was just a wrap-up -- a connector and nothing more. You knew were II left off and where IV need to start. So the writers or whoever guides the story just built _plumbing_ to connect the two. Short of Ewan McGregor's pivotal scene, I felt like most of the entire movie was a tragic waste.

I wondered though whether this was avoidable. There were so many questions to be answered, and the audience was demanding them, that it seemed the writers HAD to answer them. It was their last call. So they spooled them out.

Serenity manages to do what Sith did not -- PAINT us a story rather than type it out for us. Without spoiling the movie, Serenity does answer some questions and does give fans what they've wanted. But it does so in a story wrapped deeply in character and filled with surprise. Go see it Go see it Go see it. And preferably while it's in the theatres. So that's actually Go see it quickly.

By the way, Serenity doesn't answer all the questions. :-) Let's pray for a sequel.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Now that's comedy

The juxtaposition of the genteel and the vulgar always makes for a good laugh. It worked for Monty Python, it works for The Daily Show, and it is teh r0x0r on Penny Arcade.

I couldn't stop laughing at the second panel of "Felinity" yesterday, and I still lose it when thinking about "robot sea shanties or whatever that shit was."

And Gabe speaking at his old high school is priceless.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I'm a winner

I love the Flick Filosopher, and the Flick Filosopher loves me. Or at least my caption.

Art vs. Artist

This morning's links took me from Neil Gaiman's blog to Wikipedia to screenwriter William Richert's web site.

Now, Richert may rightly have an ax to grind, but everything on his web site smacks of either sour grapes or self-aggrandizement. Okay, so you was robbed, but seriously, get over it. If you can't stand politics and backstabbing and the vagaries of fame and fortune, what the hell are you doing in Hollywood? I just can't shake the feeling that a bigger man would have moved on by now, and returned to focusing on his own art or actively working to change what he clearly feels is an unjust arbitration system in the Writer's Guild.

Deciding whether to care about Aaron Sorkin's personal life-- which seems to include a colorful array of hookers and drugs-- is left as an exercise for the reader.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Looking a gift TiVo in the mouth

It should not be this difficult to watch TV.

D bought her Mom a TiVo box for her birthday, which box we're going to deliver this weekend when we visit. D also wanted to include a gift subscription, so she went online and placed an order. However, the order confirmation didn't give her the redemption code needed for activation.

After more than half an hour on the phone with agents both unhelpful and clueless, "Megan" finally told us that TiVo doesn't distribute those codes online or by email anymore. A visit to the web site confirmed this sad fact. My emphasis below

That was then:
After you purchase a TiVo service gift subscription directly from TiVo.com, you'll be given a 9-digit redemption code... During checkout, you can choose to send the recipient an e-mail with the 9-digit redemption code automatically included.
This is now:
The gift certificate with the 9-digit redemption code will be shipped to you directly... If you want, you can also have TiVo send the gift certificate directly to your recipient--just enter their address as the shipping address!
Yes, I might think that was convenient, if I didn't know how much easier the old process was. For a company that wants its customers to do everything online-- including activation-- they're sure doing their best to screw things up. I mean, they don't even offer support by email. You'd think that a company still struggling to be profitable would look to do something more cost-effective than running a call center.

I love our TiVo, but I have a bad feeling that the company is going to wither and die slowly, just as Palm has been-- by starting out with great technology, but later squandering their goodwill with users by running the business badly. And now that I have an HDTV, I'm just waiting to see whether DirecTV or Dish Network wins the race to upgrade to MPEG-4 transmission and produce a non-lame, integrated DVR receiver, so I can get all my channels-- including local-into-local (LIL) stations-- off the same cable.

It should not be this difficult to watch TV.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It's a Sign

Earlier this month, I decided to toss my hat in the ring for this year's National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), using a premise that I'd scribbled down several years ago but never developed-- briefly, it's about Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the Moon, in an alternate reality where werewolves are real. Yes, wacky, but that's kind of the point.

Then, last week, I learned that the PBS show American Experience will air the documentary Race to the Moon-- about the Apollo 8 mission-- on October 31st, the day before nanowrimo begins. How perfect is that? It's almost like finding a penny from the year I was born.

To further tantalize you, here's an excerpt from PBS's blurb for the show:
"Apollo 8 [was] arguably America's riskiest and most important space mission," says series executive producer Mark Samels. "We've heard a lot about Apollo 11 and 13, but without the success of Apollo 8, the entire history of the U.S. space program would have been altered."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Camel is Weeping Because Her Movie Sucks

To be fair, The Story of the Weeping Camel, which I watched last night, does have its moments. Some of the photography is gorgeous; the camels are fascinating animals to watch; and it's cheaper than actually visiting a village in Mongolia's Gobi Desert.

But Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, it was mind-numbingly boring to a degree I could not have previously imagined.

I blame those wacky German filmmakers.

I mean, okay, I acknowledge its achievements as "narrative documentary" and "ethnographic filmmaking", but the entire plot can be summed up in less than twenty-five words. Not just the concept-- the actual, complete story.

And the characters are presented so passively that I didn't care about most of them, one way or the other. The exceptions were the brothers, Dude (which I'm sure is pronounced "duh-day" or something, but I kept thinking: Jeff Lebowski?) and Ugna (which is the diminutive form of his full name, but I kept thinking of those pig-faces from Cloud City), who ride out from the village to find musicians to perform a ritual to get the titular mother camel to allow her calf to nurse.

And that's another thing: I can respect ancient cultures and hokey religions and even Gaian mysticism, but I don't enjoy listening to it. I suppose the ritual with the lamas was supposed to be a contrast to the younger brother wanting a television set, but the debate is never developed. In the worst tradition of documentaries, the film doesn't have a point of view. And that's maddening for me, as a storyteller, to sit through.

Clearly, I'm not the right audience for this movie. Many other people loved it-- hell, it was nominated for an Oscar-- but I just couldn't get into it. It's one of those movies where you have to care about the subject matter beforehand. It doesn't suck you in; it doesn't explain why you should care about these people and their situation. It felt like a zoo exhibit, but even at the zoo, you get some kind of placard telling you what you're looking at and why it matters.

Monday, October 17, 2005

He shoulda called it "Sketch Night"

Reported today: Zap2it - TV news - 'West Wing' Creator Sorkin Goes Backstage at NBC! Aaron Sorkin, the author of screwball classics like The American President, The West Wing (before John Wells ruined it), and Sports Night (until ABC cancelled it), has been commissioned by NBC to produce a new TV series for next season.*

This is probably related to the May cancellation of his movie production, The Farnsworth Invention, which was to be a biography of the inventor of the television set. I would have wanted to see that movie, but I'm even happier that we'll be getting over 20 hours of Sorkin's stories and dialogue.

What's the series about? Follow the link above. But honestly, I don't even care. There are very few people working in TV and movies whom I'd call "creators"-- individuals who consistently have unique, compelling visions and the talent to present them well-- but when those people make something, I'm there. Aaron Sorkin is a creator. Joss Whedon, even more so.

Many people seem to pick their entertainment based on the performers involved; e.g., big stars like Tom Cruise can "open" a movie because people want to go see anything in which he appears. I feel that way to some extent-- I'm a sucker for Nicolas Cage-- but I have more affinity for writers and directors and composers.

* Actually just a pilot, but according to the article, "[s]hould NBC decide not to go forward with the series, it would have to pay Warner Bros. a hefty kill fee", which implies they're pretty committed to it. Hooray!

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Swordsman

I think I'm going to have to buy this glarkware t-shirt (which I found via TWOP), just because the description is so brilliant.

My favorite bits are "5:00 PM: Vigorous constitutional" and "7:31 PM: Dammit!"

Trust me, it's funny in context. Just go read the thing. Won't take but a minute. You can thank me later.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Which Serenity character are you?


You scored as River Tam. The Fugitive. You are clever and dangerous, which is a nasty combination. The fact you are crazy too just adds to your charm. They did bad things to you, but you know their secrets. They will regret how they made you.

River Tam

81%

Simon Tam

75%

Zoe Alleyne Washburne

69%

Capt. Mal Reynolds

63%

Hoban 'Wash' Washburne

56%

Kaylee Frye

50%

Shepherd Derrial Book

44%

The Operative

44%

Inara Serra

31%

Jayne Cobb

31%

Which Serenity character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

NaNoWriMo: third time's the charm

Encouraged by some co-workers, I've signed up for NaNoWriMo 2005, wherein I will attempt to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. I failed at this twice before: in 2002, I banged out less than 9,000 words before losing steam, and in 2003, I didn't manage to write one word.

This time, I'm using a premise I scribbled down several years ago and never developed, but every time I read my notes, I get excited. The working title is By the Light of the Moon. It'll be my first attempt at historical fiction, and I expect to get many things wrong. I'm also crossing hard-ish sf with pure fantasy, which will be interesting.

I'd still like to finish the novel I started in 2002 (Star-Cross'd, which I describe as "Romeo and Juliet in space" or "Contact meets The West Wing"), and flesh out the short story "Working Graves", which really cries out to be the first novel in a bestselling series. (Hey, I can dream, can't I?) But NaNoWriMo encourages participants to start new works of fiction-- outlines are okay, but no actual prose until November 1st.

As the FAQ says: "Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you'll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Alton Brown would hate it

The mini-fridge in my hotel room has this clever-but-unnecessary plastic rack for storing those short 8-ounce cans of soda (or, as they say up here in Oregon, "pop") commonly found in hospitals. But where would one acquire such a specialty item? Why, from the Target store just down the street, of course!

It's really quite strange. I keep wondering if it's actually supposed to be used for something else-- like, I dunno, ostrich eggs-- but the soda cans just fit too perfectly in the rack for it to have been designed for anything else. Maybe it's a Pacific Northwest thing.

Browncoat Blues Redux

It's almost 11:00 PM on Thursday, September 29th. In just a few minutes, dozens of Browncoats waiting in line to see the midnight show of Serenity in San Francisco will start singing "The Ballad of Serenity" (the theme from the TV series Firefly, on which the movie is based) and "The Man They Call Jayne" (from the episode "Jaynestown") and whatever else the guy with the guitar can conjure up.

Meanwhile, I'm in Medford, Oregon, getting ready to go to bed so I can wake up bright and early to help decorate my friend Loren's wedding reception site for the shindig on Saturday. I got here this afternoon, picked up my tuxedo (I'm one of his groomsmen), and drove out to the farm owned by his bride-to-be's family. We had a nice dinner outside, walked around and watched the cows being fed, and played with the dog (Blue) and twin black kittens-- known interchangeably as "Kitten #1" and "Kitten #2".

No, I did not suggest that they name the kittens Fanty and Mingo.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Palm drops the other shoe

Well, it finally happened. Earlier today, Palm (or are they still PalmOne? I can't keep track) issued a press release stating that their new Treo 700 will run Windows Mobile instead of PalmOS.

And, less than three weeks ago, PalmSource announced that they were being bought by the Japanese company ACCESS (who produced the NetFront web browser that was bundled with my Sony CLIE).

I can still remember how giddy with excitement I was, back in 1996, when I picked up my U.S. Robotics Pilot 5000 and found that it was every bit as useful and user-friendly as advertised. It's a testament to the product that it survived for almost ten years, despite gross mismanagement by its parent companies. Developers loved this platform, but the manufacturers never really understood what they had or how to properly exploit it.

So long, PalmOS, and thanks for all the fish. Here's hoping somebody else can learn from your owners' mistakes.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Flavor of the Week: Airline Pilot

The JetBlue pilot who landed his aircraft despite malfunctioning landing gear-- not just safely, but perfectly, keeping the wheels right on the centerline-- is refusing to talk to reporters. He's not taking their phone calls, and he's asked friends and family not to speak to the press.

People are calling him a hero. Okay, if the shoe fits, whatever. But there seems to be some public expectation that any person at the center of an event like this-- which was broadcast live on television and captured the attention of millions of Americans-- should want to tell his story. Or, to be precise, that he should sell the rights to his story so somebody else can concoct a not-quite-true-but-shamelessly-pandering version to peddle as a news article, a book, a TV movie of the week, or what have you.

And I really have to ask those somebodies else: what the hell is wrong with you?

Leave the man alone. He did his job, he did it well, and if he desires no accolades, so be it. It is not your job to force him into the spotlight. "The people" are not entitled to receive everything they want or unreasonably demand.

Every reporter who called this man, visited his house, or accosted his acquaintances after he made his wish for privacy known should be ashamed of himself or herself. Anyone who attempts to sensationalize this impressive but ultimately minor achievement in aviation needs to get a new hobby.

And remember, kids: "Based on a true story" is always a lie.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My Name Is E.T.

Just watched two time-shifted pilots tonight, and here's what I think.

Threshold: not good. Did they really need two hours to tell this shell of a story, with clunky exposition and obvious plot twists? And is anyone else annoyed that this lobotomized mishmash of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Darwin's Radio got a green light, while the far more interesting Global Frequency* didn't even sell the pilot? There ain't no justice.

My Name Is Earl: better. Jason Lee is perfect for the title role, and there's plenty of room for the character to grow. But I can also see the series degenerating into farce, as Malcolm in the Middle (and, to some extent, Quantum Leap) did, by allowing the ongoing conflicts (annoying ex-wife, idiot brother, money troubles) and their attendant, more pedestrian antagonisms to overshadow the "A" plots.

* also about a group of experts assembled from various disciplines to solve world-threatening crises

Hot New Fall TV

Another list of premiere dates-- this one from TiVo, with hyperlinks to show info.

Of interest tonight: My Name is Earl, which fellow TV geek Ammy says is "widely pitched as the best new show this year." We'll see. I like Jason Lee, but not sitcoms in general, because they tend to rely on ridiculous, nonsensical schadenfreude, and I really don't like watching stupid people do stupid things for stupid reasons. (Your definition of "stupid" may vary.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's a hell of a town, Part 1

Last weekend, D and I flew to New York City for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. This was D's first time in Manhattan, so we made an effort to be atypically active and do some sightseeing.

On Friday, we arrived after midnight at JFK and took a cab from the airport, across Queens, through the midtown tunnel, to the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. I'd spent a lot of time researching hotels for this trip, since the wedding was at Columbia University and there aren't many good lodging options that far uptown. I have to say, tripadvisor.com is a great source of information, but it's difficult to know how much to trust some of the more extreme reviews-- whether positive or negative.

We got up early on Saturday morning for a fabulous breakfast at Norma's, where we had a 9:00 AM reservation. Our waitress was great, the food was delicious (I had Norma's Eggs Benedict), and I'm pretty sure it's the only restaurant where the coffee was actually stronger than I usually like it (but some sugar made it perfect).

After breakfast, we walked up 7th Avenue to Central Park and strolled for a while. D enjoyed exploring the tame wilderness, and we saw plenty of squirrels and birds. On the way back, we passed the Steuben Parade coming up 5th Avenue. Though it's nominally a celebration of German-American heritage, most of the groups we saw marching were labor unions, and not German. Any excuse for a parade, I guess.

The wedding was that afternoon, in St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia. We took a cab from the hotel, and boy, am I glad we didn't have to drive ourselves around Manhattan.

We got to the chapel with mere minutes to spare-- or so we thought. The invitations had said 3:00 PM, but when we arrived, the programs said 3:30 PM. We had a laugh and mentioned this discrepancy to a few other people. A couple of them remarked, jokingly, that the bride and groom had probably realized how many Koreans were attending and pushed back the time to allow for their inevitable lateness.

I've heard members of several different ethnic groups lay claim to this-- e.g., "Indian Standard Time" being an hour behind-- but I suspect that quite a few people out of any large group will tend to be late, regardless of race. It's interesting that so many people seem to want to adopt this trait as some kind of cultural heritage.

The couple were married by one of their close friends, who also happens to be a huge Star Trek fan, and he managed to slip "live long and prosper" into the closing of the ceremony. I loved it.

After the wedding, we were asked to stick around for pictures. The groom, who's always been a bit of a photo slut, wanted to get group shots of himself and his bride with different groups of attendees-- high school friends, college friends, co-workers, various permutations of extended family, etc. Did I mention he's also a bit anal-rententive?

Then came cocktail hour and the dinner reception, on the fourth and second floors, respectively, of the Faculty Club. It wasn't as hot as I had feared it might be in the city, but it still got pretty warm during dinner and dancing-- the room was shaped like a "T", with few windows, and the staff had to set up fans to get some air circulating through. But otherwise, it was a great party, with surprisingly good food, and I got to catch up with some old high school classmates.

The best man invited us to join him and a few others for dim sum the next morning, but we decided we'd rather maximize our sightseeing time. We walked over to Broadway and caught a cab back to the hotel, then went for a walk around Times Square (which feels a lot like Las Vegas) and picked up some supplies at a Duane Reade before calling it a night.

In the morning, we had a room service breakfast and then headed out around 10:00 AM. After a slight detour into the street fair which was taking place right outside the hotel, where D bought two pashmina scarves ($10 each-- such a deal!), we walked up to Columbus Circle, then down into the subway, and rode the "C" train to 81st Street and the American Museum of Natural History.

To be continued...

Fall TV Premiere Schedule

Linked from the title, above. For tomorrow (new shows in bold):

FRI., SEPT. 16
8PM – 'What I Like About You' (WB)
8:30PM – 'Twins' (WB)
9PM – 'Threshold' (CBS, two-hour premiere)
9PM – 'Reba' (WB)
9:30PM – 'Living With Fran' (WB)


I'm curious but pessimistic about Threshold. As with many shows, I like the cast (which includes Carla Gugino, Brent Spiner, Peter Dinklage, and Charles S. Dutton) but am less enthused about other aspects. We'll see if Brannon Braga can manage not to totally screw up a science fiction show for once.

Next week, I'm hopeful but pessimistic about How I Met Your Mother (with Alyson Hannigan) and Kitchen Confidential (with Nicholas Brendon) next Monday. Yes, even after all these years, it's still all about Buffy. Then it's the second season premiere of Lost on Wednesday, from which I'm sure we can expect some great storytelling but not much actual story.

The Big Box o' Buffy

Coming November 15th: every fantastic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, plus new extras, on 40 DVDs. Now available for pre-order ($130 from Amazon.com).

For seven years, this was the best damn show on television. Anybody who tells you otherwise is not your friend. Shun them. SHUN THEM! Or, y'know, don't.


(photo from tvshowsondvd.com)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What's Curtis Watching? (Fall 2005)

Just a quick overview. Rants will come after actual viewing. My rating scale:

Hell yeah!
Okay, I'm interested.
Whatever.
Not interested.
Fuck no.


The grids below were stolen from The TV IV Wiki (but hey, it's okay):

Monday

Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Wife Swap Monday Night Football
CBS The King of Queens How I Met Your Mother* Two and a Half Men Out of Practice CSI: Miami
FOX Arrested Development Kitchen Confidential* Prison Break Local Programming
NBC Surface Las Vegas Medium**
UPN One on One All of Us Girlfriends Half & Half Local Programming
The WB 7th Heaven Just Legal Local Programming

* It's Xander and Willow!

** Surprisingly good. Usually pretty clever about tweaking the idea of precognition, and otherwise carried by a great regular cast.

Tuesday

Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC According to Jim Rodney Commander-in-Chief** Boston Legal
CBS NCIS The Amazing Race Close to Home
FOX Bones* House Local Programming
NBC The Biggest Loser My Name is Earl The Office Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
UPN America's Next Top Model (encores) Sex, Love & Secrets Local Programming
The WB Gilmore Girls Supernatural Local Programming

* It's Angel!

** An intriguing high concept, but all the previews I've seen are beyond lame, and I hated series producer Rod Lurie's two pretentious, twee, and very similarly premised political dramas, Deterrence and The Contender.

Wednesday

Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC George Lopez Freddie Lost Invasion
CBS Still Standing Yes, Dear Criminal Minds* CSI: New York
FOX That '70s Show Stacked Head Cases Local Programming
NBC The Apprentice: Martha Stewart E-Ring** Law & Order
UPN America's Next Top Model Veronica Mars Local Programming
The WB One Tree Hill Related Local Programming

* It's Mandy Patinkin!

** Dennis Hopper? In the Pentagon? What kind of crazy alternate reality is this?

Thursday

Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Alias The Night Stalker Primetime Live
CBS Survivor CSI Without a Trace
FOX The O.C. Reunion Local Programming
NBC Joey Will & Grace The Apprentice ER
UPN Everybody Hates Chris Eve Cuts Love, Inc. Local Programming
The WB Smallville* Everwood Local Programming

* It's Spike!

Friday

Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Supernanny Hope & Faith Hot Properties 20/20
CBS The Ghost Whisperer Threshold* NUMB3RS
FOX The Bernie Mac Show Malcolm in the Middle Killer Instinct Local Programming
NBC Dateline NBC Three Wishes Inconceivable
UPN WWE Smackdown Local Programming
The WB What I Like About You Twins Reba Living With Fran Local Programming

* It's Data!

Saturday

Network 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC ABC Movie of the Week
CBS Crime Time Saturday Crime Time Saturday 48 Hours Mystery
FOX Cops Cops America's Most Wanted Local Programming
NBC The NBC Saturday Night Movie

Sunday

Network 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC America's Funniest Home Videos Extreme Makeover: The Home Edition Desperate Housewives Grey's Anatomy
CBS 60 Minutes Cold Case CBS Sunday Night Movie
FOX NFL Overrun King of the Hill The Simpsons The War at Home Family Guy American Dad Local Programming
NBC Dateline NBC The West Wing Law & Order: Criminal Intent Crossing Jordan
The WB Reba Reba Charmed Blue Collar TV Blue Collar TV Local Programming

If you're counting, that's 14.5 broadcast hours per week of TV I'm interested in watching. That doesn't include cable, of course, which is most of what I'll actually watch-- more on that later-- and 90% of the new shows will turn out to be crap anyway. (Thank you, Theodore Sturgeon.)

the best damn show on television

Right now, it's got to be Gilmore Girls, which just started its sixth season last night. Like any TV series, it's had its share of missteps, but I can't think of another show currently on the air that has a better overall sense of what it wants to be, and knows how to do it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss many hours good-bye (especially if you catch up with the DVD box sets).

Over on premium cable, the second and third episodes of HBO's Rome have proved to be very engrossing. The pilot was, as John Rogers said, "the draggy, pipe-y, way too much gratuitous nudity first ep", but they seem to be on track now. If you missed it altogether, the "inevitable coming three-fer night" is this Friday.

I'll write more on TV later this week, now that the fall season is incipient and some of the shows I actually care about have premiered. I used to get more excited about this time of year, but now I'm starting to agree with D: TV pilots, as a rule, suck. They're usually clunky because of all the necessary exposition, and because the writers and actors don't have a handle on the characters or conflicts yet. Start with the second or third episode, then go back and catch the first in reruns if you happen to start liking the show.

But I'm still going to watch the pilots of the new shows starring Buffy alums: Bones (David "Angel" Boreanaz), Kitchen Confidential (Nicholas "Xander" Brendon), and How I Met Your Mother (Alyson "Willow" Hannigan). Yes, I'll even watch a goddamn sitcom with a lame, gimmicky premise. Because I am a drooling fanboy. But you knew that.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


No, wait, let me guess... does the "F." stand for "Fabio"? Posted by Picasa

At the wedding reception: enterprising parents set up a makeshift kiddie theatre using booster seats and a portable DVD player. Posted by Picasa

"If they could see me now...!" Posted by Picasa

The bride and groom get their money's worth out of the wedding photographer. Posted by Picasa

Stained glass. Purty. Posted by Picasa

Inside St. Paul's Chapel, waiting for the wedding ceremony to start. Posted by Picasa

St Paul's Chapel at Columbia University. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: hungry fish swarm around enormous bread crumbs. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: ducks crowd a manmade floating island while remote-controlled toy boats circle. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: D seeks stable footing on aforementioned large rock. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: the view from atop a large rock. Posted by Picasa

In Central Park: D observes a waterfall birdbath. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 09, 2005

mergers, acquisitions, and platitudes

In today's business news:
Japanese mobile content delivery provider Access said Friday it was acquiring PalmSource, the company spun off from handheld device maker Palm to develop the Palm operating system software, for about $324.3 million, or an 83 percent premium.

The $18.50 per share offer from Access represents $8.41 more than PalmSource’s closing price of $10.09 Thursday.

The announcement drove PalmSource shares sharply higher Friday, up $7.82, or 78 percent, to $17.91 in recent trading...

-- "Access Buys PalmSource", redherring.com
I can't say I'm surprised. I could reminisce about my brief stint at PalmSource, reflecting on what misguidance I witnessed from the inside, but I've sung that song before. The bigger story here is this: Americans don't want PDAs.

In fact, very few people want PDAs or handheld computers; even in Asian markets where an actual majority of the population loves and buys new tech like there's no tomorrow, the killer app is not a calendar or address book, it's a telephone. If your new phone happens to have a calendar, address book, digital camera, wireless net access, mp3 player, etc. built in, so much the better. But if you can't use it to talk to your friends-- no sale.

The Treo is a step in the right direction, but it's still got it backwards-- we don't want a computer that happens to also be a phone, we want a phone that also happens to be a computer and can do lots of cool stuff. All that cool stuff is secondary to the primary purpose-- communication.

Remember those cheesy long distance commercials? "Reach out and touch someone", "I won't drift away", and so on. The Bell monopoly was ugly, but they knew their business.

UPDATE 9/12: Apparently, so does eBay, who just bought Skype for $2.6 billion.