You know what they say about dogs and children

This just struck me funny – from Lisa deMoraes’ TV Column in the Washington Post:

[President] Bush’s much-touted first exclusive one-on-one since the war, with NBC’s Tom Brokaw, was beaten Friday at 9 p.m. by a rerun of ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” featuring a dog that could jump a fence to fetch a ball and a dancing pooch in a tutu.

It’s now been announced that Bush will address the nation tomorrow night at 9pm, just in time to interrupt my viewing of Will and Grace. He will be speaking from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, trumpeting the “end” of the war and claiming victory. I can only hope that he will be wearing the same outfit Cher wore in her aircraft carrier appearance, and straddling the big guns.

More reality in TV

I found tonight’s episode of Manor House to be very disturbing, with it’s footage of shooting birds and the serving of an entire head of a pig. Edwardian, yes. Something I really wanted to see? No. One of the great conveniences of our modern era is the ability to divorce ourselves from the reality of the death of animals – the end result that we see is plastic-wrapped and packaged in styrofoam, sold at McDonald’s and no longer resembling the animal. On one hand, it is a seemingly civilized method of dealing with things. But I am certain that in another hundred years our future heirs will find us quite barbaric.
I’m not a vegetarian. I’m not a vegan. But I should be. And I may yet be.

Speak Canadian

In the vein of The News in Latin, Chortler provides the news translated into Canadian.

Bush Declares War Is Over
President George W. Bush (the guy who serves more or less the same role as Jean Chretien, but is not nearly as fluent in English) will declare this week that the war against Saddam Hussein (a man who is 100 times more evil than Brian Mulroney) is over.

How a monopoly stays that way

Worried about the wave of media consolidation? Well, here’s more grist for the mill. Cable giant Comcast denies ad sales to it’s competitors. Take a look at this USA Today story.

Qwest Communications fired the first shot Monday in a potentially important fight over Comcast’s refusal to air its DSL ads. DSL is the top rival to cable’s lucrative high-speed Internet offering.

“By denying us access, you are blocking a customer’s ability to learn about all the choices in the marketplace and to make an informed decision,” Qwest CEO Dick Notebaert wrote to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts in a letter obtained by USA TODAY. “It smacks of censorship.”

…Cable operators have long refused to air DSL ads, arguing that the First Amendment protects that right — and that phone companies can still reach potential customers via local TV, radio and billboards.

But critics say that antitrust considerations may now come into play as cable operators consolidate. Comcast became No. 1 last year when it acquired AT&T’s cable operation, giving it more than 21 million subscribers.

“There’s no First Amendment protection to use a monopoly to violate the antitrust laws,” says Media Access Project CEO Andrew Jay Schwartzman.

Mad About Paul

I admit it: I have the hots for Paul Reiser, and I don’t care who knows it. So, to sate this appetite, I bought two box sets of Mad About You.
Can I just point out to the makers of box sets of TV shows, such as Mad About You, Star Trek, and Futurama, that it would be helpful to have a “play all episodes” option. This is especially annoying on 1/2 hour shows. Generally speaking, if I’m going to watch a TV show on DVD, I’m going to watch a disc’s worth, not pick and choose one specific episode (the one where Paul & Jamie buy the couch? The one where Lisa mixes up Murray with another dog? The one where Selby makes his final appearance before being kicked off the show?). Please, Hollywood – just one little “Play All” would be nice.

Another good question

A wonderful, to-the-point letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post:

Aiding and Abetting
Tuesday, April 29, 2003; Page A22

There’s one thing I don’t understand about the April 15 news story “In Plea Deal, Seattle Activist Admits Conspiring to Aid Taliban”:

Why is James Ujaama going to prison for giving money and computers to the Taliban in 2000 and 2001 when the U.S. government provided the Taliban with $43 million in May 2001?

DAN MILSTEIN
Charlottesville

Where it happened

Mark Bennett has a new show here in DC of his art – meticulously drawn floorplans of familiar places from American pop culture entertainment. His previous show at the Corcoran, which I was drawn to because of my own penchant for this odd interest, featured floor plans and drawings of such famous TV locales as the Cleaver’s house, Gilligan’s Island, and Samantha & Darrin’s lovely Cape Cod. I used to obsess this way myself, mentally creating a floor plan as I watched TV, trying to figure out what the place was actually like. My bent was more toward figuring out the actual sets, how they were oriented on the stage, what part connected with what part. Bennett, instead, creates the actual world where these buildings exist. His drawings complete that fourth wall and make the illusion real. They’re not exactly true to what you see on screen, instead, they are the fleshing out of what is hinted at.
His latest drawings are brought forth from film rather than television, and include floor plans of the Bates Motel and the kitchsy ranch home from Kitten With A Whip. His show is at the Conner Contemporary Art Gallery through May 10.
[Buy Mark's Book]

If it’s real, you should learn something

Is it hypocritical? I hate reality programs, except on PBS. I was riveted by 1900 House, Frontier House, and 1940s House. Now I’m watching Manor House. What’s so engaging about these shows is that they have an education component – how did people actually live a century ago? What was life like then? This is so much more worthwhile TV viewing than such crap as Fear Factor or Married by America. Watch, would you? Learn.
[Update: I'm disappointed to discover that now PBS has taken to superimposing the title of the program which you are watching every 15 minutes. Extremely annoying and irritating.]

The next killer app for mobile

Ideas while on the phone with Jann – he’s so busy that I’m sure he’s not going to get around to blogging, so I’ll do it for him.
My idea: The phone company sucks. As bad as they are with residential telephone customers, they’re even worse with businesses, charging extortionist fees to connect business lines. Imagine if you will, a business that did away with their telephone lines altogether, and went wireless! I can imagine an office full of people with Nextel phones instead of the desk phone. What is preventing this from happening? Mobile phones don’t offer such crucial business features as hunt groups and call transfer. I think that the first mobile company that offers these features will be a force to be reckoned with in the new wireless era. In the specific case of my office, which travels with all staff to a different city each year for a conference, the office would never “close” – if you called us, our mobile phones would ring wherever we are. Heck, that would mean that the concept of the “office” would be redefined – I could be at home working, but the person calling would never know.
Jann’s idea: Sometimes you don’t want to be using a small mobile phone, or you might need a headset. The solution? A phone “dock” that lets you connect your mobile to the wired network in your office. You could make calls in the office on a regular desk set, but it would be powered by your mobile, perhaps with a large central antenna on the building to boost the signal. When you leave your desk, just take the mobile with you! This would work well at home, too – just dock your mobile when you get home, and then you could have extensions around the house, blissfully divorced from the monopoly phone company and their machinations.
What a boon this would be – you could have just one phone number instead of a work and mobile number or a home and mobile number. And companies like Verizon would be forced to rethink their evil ways.

Questions not asked

For the May sweeps, ABC World News Tonight is beginning a series of reports entitled “Unanswered Questions.” Oh, good, I thought — someone in the cowardly media is going to begin asking why the Bush administration is so secretive. Or, “where are all those Iraqi weapons?” Or, “Where is Osama bin Laden?” Or, “What happened to the nation-building in Afghanistan?” Or…
No such luck. Their first report: “Why does traffic have to be like this?”
I swear to God, Edward R. Murrow is spinning in his grave.

It’s OK, as long as I don’t have to listen

adspreview5_04282003.jpgCan I just say that Nic, from the new iPod/Apple Music ads, is pretty dang-oodly-diddly cute and awfully adorable, but has awful taste in music?

First Impressions from an Early Adopter

Yes, I rushed to download the new iTunes with the Apple Music Store. Here are some first impressions:

  • itunesbtns.jpg This update to iTunes continues the trend of poor interface tweaks from Apple. They have taken the Aqua interface to new lows with this version. It looks for all the world as if an amateur programmer threw it together. The buttons are even flatter than before, with borders that make them appear cartoony instead of real, three-dimensional objects.

  • For some reason, the text in iTunes is no longer anti-aliased — expect for a solitary playlist which is floating there still smoothed. itunessmoothing.jpg [Update: I discovered that the latest OS X update, which inexplicably reset many of my preferences, also reset the font smoothing preference to "above 9pt." The type size in iTunes is obviously falling below that range, but it doesn't explain why any iTunes text using a curl quote or an international symbol is still smoothed...]
  • Clicking “Sign In” to access the Music Service brings up a log-in screen. If you don’t enter the correct password, nothing happens. It never tells you that it was wrong, leaving you to wonder what’s next.
  • When you sign in correctly and begin the credit card registration process, be prepared to wait forever for the server to respond. I understand that this is the first day and the servers are being swamped, but it does not bode well when one considers that this service will also be shoveling out huge quantities of bits when people start downloading music. Just registering shouldn’t be that tasking, and it really spoils the initial experience.
  • Surprise! You’re going to be charged sales tax, according to the jurisdiction you’re in. This is one of those things we’ve all be waiting for that the dot coms insisted was too difficult to implement – Apple seems to have done it, going so far as to ask what county I was located in.
  • After entering my card number and information, giving up address information, telling them what county I’m in so they can calculate tax… about 10 minutes later I am taken back to the first screen and told that credit card processing is not currently available. Now what do I do? Do they have my credit card number stored somewhere now?
  • cardnotavail.jpg

  • During all this, the “Sign In” button is still there, saying “Sign In.” Well, am I signed in or not? Huh? Am I? Once you finally get through the registration process (it took me 8 tries) the “Sign In” button changes to your account user name.
  • When in the service, it’s very difficult to decide what to do next. You have a choice of new releases, staff favorites, and just added. When I click any of the arrows which, I assume, indicate forward and backward, it access the network for a very long time, then does nothing. It is disconcerting. I wish a box would pop up to tell me that something went wrong rather than just nothing at all happening.
  • I’ve searched for two artists so far: Sara Hickman, and in spoken word, David Sedaris. Neither are in their database. Searching for “George Michael” brings up a Bach album for some reason. Looks like I won’t find much that I want on this service. You can choose to “request” a song or artist, but every time I try it I get the message “We could not complete your Music Store request (504). There was an error in the Music Store. Please try again later.”
  • I also took a look at the new iPod, and I’m not so happy. Frankly, it looks rather cheap. It doesn’t have the same fit and finish as the original. It definitely doesn’t look like a Jonathan Ive masterpiece. In addition, it no longer has any standard connections! The original had a firewire port and a standard phono jack with remote terminal, as seen everywhere. No more! It now has a proprietary “dock” connection on the bottom and a proprietary remote control connection on the top. (I’ll admit, though, that it’s awfully thin compared to the previous version – nice.)

    I pre-ordered an iTrip from Griffin a few months ago, which is finally shipping. This device sits on top of the iPod connected to the headphone jack with it’s surrounding remote control connections, and transmits it to FM radio. Sorry, Griffin – it won’t work with the new iPod and it’s odd connectors.

    I’m so disappointed – being a long-time Apple fan, it just seems that they’re not paying the same kind of attention to details as they used to.