Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Best Show on Television

I'm pretty sure I did a post with this title already, and I was then talking about The Wire on HBO. Well, this time I'm obviously talking about Heroes on NBC. Last night's episode was just great TV. Hard to believe an episode which had only a little Hiro (literally) could be so good, but it was. Nice to see them use flashbacks so well. It was great to see so much background information. It's hard to believe they packed all that into only 42 minutes or whatever. Also, it was great to learn that the George Takei appearance earlier was not just a cheap stunt casting trick, and instead is part of something which obviously goes a lot deeper with Hiro's dad. About the only complaint I have about the episode is that Eric Roberts looks like someone ran over his face with a large truck, and his hair looked like there was a dead animal on top of his head. I can't wait to see how they handle Mr. Bennett after his memory has been erased. He may be leading the charge looking for Claire even though he was the one who made her disappear. Anyway, if you're not watching Heroes, you should really start.

Also, The Black Donnelly's which premiered after wasn't bad either.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

'Unlucky' airline logo grounded

Wow, people are fucking stupid. Ok, so I realize that some people are unnecessarily superstitous, but who the hell even noticed in the first place that this logo had 13 dots? Who goes around counting things like this? Did they have to rip the seats out of row 13 also? So many questions. And I guess I realize that an airline can't just tell their customers to fuck off, but this would be a case where I'd really like to have seen that response.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Filet-O-Fish hooked patrons

I came across this somewhat interesting article on the origin of the Filet-o-Fish sandwich. But all I could think while reading it, was "why on Earth would anyone eat that thing?" A question which was even more perplexing after seeing the original poster for it in the article. It looks like the guy blew his nose on it. Disgusting. I guess the article offers a little of an explanation about Catholics who don't eat meat on Fridays, but fuck, why wouldn't you just rather starve? That Hula Burger that Ray Kroc apparently came up with sounds really lame, but I can't imagine it wasn't better than this disgusting creation. Does McDonald's still even sell these things? If so, why?

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kansas embraces evolution

It's good to see that Kansas has rejoined the modern era once more, for a while at least. Maybe next time, if they do decide to reject the scientific method, they'll reject it altogether. This could open up a whole world of possibilities - students could learn "alternate" theories about astronomy(the Earth is flat, really), geology (those rocks are only a few thousand years old) and even human biology(can you prove the stork isn't real?).

One quote in the article was puzzling -

But many Kansans still harbor religious objections and other misgivings about the British naturalist's theories. The Intelligent Design Network presented petitions with almost 4,000 signatures opposing the standards the board eventually adopted.

John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the group, accused the board of promoting atheism. And Greg Lassey, a retired Wichita-area biology teacher, said the new standards undermine families by "discrediting parents who reject materialism and the ethics and morals it fosters."

How exactly is reinstating teaching according to science "discrediting parents who reject materialism"? Are these people so far gone that they think evolution = atheist libertinism? What does evolution have to do with "ethics and morals"? Clearly, Lassey here has created a chain of thought - teaching evoltuion means rejecting God, rejecting God means rejecting morality, because without God there is no morality. Not very scientific for a retired biology teacher. And it certainly puts the lie to the idea that "Intelligent Design" isn't a way to sneak religion into the schools, that it's just another valid way to look at the evidence. If that were truly the case, how could teaching evolution lead in any way to talk of ethics and morals?

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Product Placement

I constantly hear people whining about product placement in movies and TV, but it's never bothered me. There was a perfect example of why on Heroes tonight. Nikki/Jessica gets a letter and goes to open it, and it's clearly in a FedEx envelope. Only, instead of saying FedEx, it says SendEx. How this is any better than just leaving it FedEx, which is both easier and more realistic, is beyond me.

Even the Nissan Versa in this show, which I've seen people complain about, and which is clearly superfluous to the plot doesn't bother me, because all the references to it fit nicely with (and actually helped develop) Hiro's character.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Apple - Thoughts on Music

I haven't talked much here about DRM, since it really seems pretty simple to me (i.e. it doesn't work and never will), and would ulimately just turn into a rant. But with someone like Steve Jobs weighing in, I thought I should mention it. It's good that someone who may actually have some influence seems to recognize that it doesn't work.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.
emphaiss mine

So, the gist seems to be that DRM sucks and that Apple uses it only because they are forced to by the music companies. I'd love to hear a response to Jobs' points from someone on the other side. But I'm sure we won't, since there really isn't any resonable position.

One thing that did bug me about Jobs' letter, though, was when he described the existing course, where it seems that he doesn't think DRM is such a big issue, and I think he misses the point a little bit.
Some have argued that once a consumer purchases a body of music from one of the proprietary music stores, they are forever locked into only using music players from that one company.
Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. It’s hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

Sure, the average iPod today only has 3% DRM music on it, but what about tomorrow? People are only just now starting to buy their music online. Most people who invest in an iPod in the first place probably already have a vast library of CDs that they want to rip and put on it. However, if they start buying music from iTunes, why would they want to continue buying CDs? At some point that 3% is going to get to be a number that is significant, and will sway the consumer's decision. So, while Jobs may be correct right now that it isn't a big issue, when he's talking about continuing on the current course, he's talking about the future, and future where more people get more music online must be considered in the argument. Also, I would bet that there are quite a few iPods with no music from the iTunes store on them, which would skew those numbers a bit.

Anyway, the bottom line with DRM is that it doesn't in anyway affect music piracy. Just go look for illegal versions of any song you want and see how hard a time you have finding them. All it does is hamper legitimate customers' use of their rightly acquired media.

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Suicide-prevention group criticizes GM ad

So, I thought yesterday that it was ridiculous that someone could be offended by that Snickers ad. Well, that's nothing compared to the morons upset by the suicide robot ad. Apparently, it might give young robots bad ideas or something.

GM has "no plans" to drop the robot spot, spokeswoman Ryndee Carney says
Good. At least someone still has some common sense.

Like I said yesterday, we should just ignore anything people say for a week or so after the Superbowl.

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Billy Joel Concert

Michelline and I went to see Billy Joel last night as he kicked off his US tour to a sold-out crowd in Jacksonville. I've been to see very few concerts, and I was looking forward to this one. Billy Joel has always been one of my favorites. One thing about Billy Joel - he's got so many hit albums and so many songs, you never really know where he's going to go. I like almost all of his stuff, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed no matter what was on the set list for the night.

He was at the new arena downtown, which is also a basketball/hockey/whatever else they can fit in venue. It's a nice place with good visibility and ok acoustics. Facing the stage, we were in the stands on the right hand side, about halfway up. Of course, they also had a monitor in the center of the roof so we could see some of the things you can't make out if you're not right by the stage. So, like I said, the sound was ok. This is the complaint I have about a lot of live music I've seen, that they sacrifice sound quality for volume. I know that you want it to be loud, that's one reason to go to a concert - you get to be surrounded by the music, to kind of be a part of it. But when the guitars drown out the vocals and the sound blares, I just think there's got to be a better way.

The show started with a bang as Joel rose along with his piano in the center of the stage playing something pretty good that I didn't recognize. Heavy on the piano, which I like. Then he went into "My Life" to get the fans going. During the first half, he alternated fan favorites - "Allentown", "Don't Ask My Why", "The Entertainer" with some stuff they haven't played in concert since the 70's, according to Joel. His voice still sounds good - clear and confident, and he had a lot of energy on stage. The crowd was into the show, but not overwhelmed early. There were a few people standing up, but most of us were sitting for this part. He's comfortable on the stage, which you would expect of someone who's been playing and touring since the early 70's. He was funny, and thanked everyone, especially the people who bought the "shitty seats".

After the first hour, he did a few slower songs - "New York State of Mind", which seems to be a favorite for a lot of people although not one of my favorites, "She's Always a Woman", and "An Innocent Man". On this last one, he has to hit the high note and hold it, and he did a good job. He sounded good all night.

For the second half, he started picking it up and really got things going, (and surprised everyone) when he said he was bringing one of his crew up to sing a "religious song, a sacred song" and to give him a chance. So this fat guy with a t-shirt and a mic comes out and they break into "Highway to Hell" with Joel on the guitar. Of course, it's a great song and they did it well, and it got everyone on their feet and moving. From that point on, most people were standing and dancing. He went into "We Didn't Start the Fire", from there, and "Big Shot" among a few others. Energy was really high and there was a real buzz for this whole set, good stuff. Then the band left the stage and the crowd was screaming and waving lighters and cell phones for a few minutes waiting for the encore everyone knew was coming. They came back out and did "Only the Good Die Young" which is one of my favorites, and then the band left again. Joel played with the audience a little and pretended to leave the stage, and finally sat down and finished up with the song he had to play - "Piano Man". It was a great ending, and the Joel let the crowd sing the chorus, which we were all doing anyway. It was a great way to finish a great show.

One interesting thing I noticed at the end - we were in a sold-out arena, probably 15000 people, and I couldn't find a black person. I know there had to be a few black people there, but they were nearly impossible to find. It was a sea of white faces. I guess it's not surprising, I just hadn't really thought about it before. Another thing was the variety of age groups. There were a surprising number of younger people, people in their 20's. Surprising to me because his last album was 1993. And there were also a lot of people in Joel's own age group. But everybody had a good time. Some of the most enthusiastic were some of the young women. No underwear was tossed, but there was a lot of energetic dancing.

I'm really glad I went. It was my wife's idea, and I probably would have skipped it, as I've never been much of a concert-goer, and I'm glad she suggested it. If he comes back, I'll definitely see him again.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Snickers Super Bowl Controversy

As I turned on the TV when I got home tonight, I caught just a piece of the tease for the news mentioning Snickers and a controversial Superbowl ad. I figured this was the one they were talking about and was ready to laugh at the ridiculousness of homophobes for complaining that an ad showed two men kissing. Well, after looking it up, I was disappointed to see that it was groups that are normally on the same side I am who were complaining. As anyone who's read this blog will know, I stand firmly in support of gay marraige, gay rights, and just all around treating gay people like anyone else. Having said that, I can't see anything the least bit offensive about this ad. The ad says absoultely nothing about gay people. There are no gay people in it. The two guys are not gay, so there is no reason they shouldn't feel akward about accidentally kissing each other. It doesn't mean they hate gay people, it makes no statement about homosexuality at all.

I think we should make some kind of rule to ignore anything said by any special interest group for a week or so after the Superbowl, as it seems these groups just like to capitalize on the popularity of the event to draw attention to themselves. And while I support drawing attention to groups that support gay rights, I'd rather that attention not be for them acting like morons.

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