Fri, April 23
In the course of this week's episode, Shii-Ann refers to the other contestants as "stupid, stupid people." I'd like to see them prove her wrong! (Not that I am optimistic.) (Read more.)
I Think I'm Gonna 'Boot—4:07 AM
Howdy, Sev'sketeers! Guess what? You can kiss this website goodbye starting at 2:00 pm GMT this Sunday! pH7media.com will be taking a well deserved week-long break, just enough time for you to forget all about me and find other ways of amusing yourselves, never to return again. (But try not to, because then my life would be, like, meaningless or something.) Sadly, it isn't me who's getting a vacation, it's just the server. Kinda silly, in a way. Robots don't need rest! But, too late, plans have been made, non-refundable deposits deposited, we're past the point of no return now.
Once we reach the other side – exactly 2:00 pm GMT on May 1 – the site will be back again with a bunch of kickass improvements. In fact, I'm betting you won't even recognize it, except for the familiar acerbic style of the cruel and sociopathic rants that show up every day or two. Y'see, we here at pH7media.com are participating in a little something called the May 1 Reboot. (For you non-technical people, "reboot" is a term used to describe the process of kicking your computer until it stops beeping.) For more details, you should feel free to visit may1reboot.com but it basically boils down to this: a bunch of websites around the world are launching newly redesigned versions at exactly the same moment on May 1. I think it's supposed to make a point about global synergy or... something. I'm just in it because I was planning to overhaul the site anyway and this gives it a nice solid deadline.
The fine folks at May 1 Reboot thought it would be cute if all of the participating sites took a week of downtime before the big event so that the simultaneous launch has more meaning (a week of nothing... then, something!). In order to show our solidarity, we'll all be sporting a snazzy Flash animation which states, in a minimalist sort of way, the participation in the M1R project. (It'll be the first Flash you've seen on this site in its nearly five-year history, and it'll probably be about another five before you see more Flash.) It's just our luck, this animation features a fun dandelion which you can play with all week long, to fill the time you would've been reading my treatises on Bush, Survivor, and the Olsen twins. It's an odd sort of cosmic coincidence, because one of my random sketches was featured in my high school literary magazine senior year, and it was a drawing of – a dandelion. About three years later, just before this website was born, there was a good chance that it would be Dandelion Productions instead of pH7 media. I even storyboarded an animated logo for the company (you know, like the Universal globe or the flying filmstrips of New Line) – I must have been so bored in history class! Here's a peek at a few frames from the storyboard. (This will all be explained more carefully in May – I'm planning a spring-cleaning tour of the pH7 archives.)
The point is, the dandelion? Is fitting.
So, enjoy the dandelion next week. I'll be burning the midnight oil, putting the finishing touches on all the lovely surprises that await you on the other end. And, don't worry, this time the changes will be for the better.
I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Thu, April 22
Isn't alertness supposed to be a survival instinct? For reality show players, the contestants on Survivor sure have lost touch with reality. (Read more.)
(Which wouldn't ordinarily merit third-level sourcing, but I couldn't resist the temptation to link to a site hosted at meepzorp.com.)
Update: Also very, very funny. Everyone will like this. Holly and Joe in particular.
The Horror of Blimps [Teemings Extras]
2 Survivor columns in 2 days...—1:09 AM
Note to my regular Survivor readers: Starting tomorrow morning, there will be an extra Survivor column on this site – enjoy it with my compliments. While my overburdened schedule has prevented me from posting immediate Friday-morning responses to Burnett's grueling war of attrition with his viewers (otherwise known as Survivor: All-Stars), I'll be making a sleepless exception this week because pH7media.com will be inaccessible next week and I wouldn't want you to have to go without. Who says I don't love you people?
Wed, April 21
"What you see in John Kerry," Wayne LaPierre, the association's executive vice president said in an interview this week, "is a politician that spent his life voting against the Second Amendment. What I see is the same thing I saw in Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. It's an elitist arrogance."
This is what has always surprised me about the campaigns that Bush and the NRA run: they appeal to their voter base by saying, "Those guys are intelletuals and elitists. They think because they're better than us and smarter than us that they should decide what we do." And this is why I'm always frustrated by the unquestioning loyalty of their voter base – why do these people respond so positively to being told they're stupid?
On a related tangent:
David Byrne [Onion AV Club]
The Bush years have been emotional. They've been driving me crazy. Not so much a guy or an administration, but the fact that large portions of the population seem to go along with it and be swept up in some kind of weird, feverish hallucination.
Tue, April 20
ViVa TiVo!—3:21 PM
Whenever my father used to play Tetris on our old, vintage, antebellum-era Nintendo, my mom would remark that he focused too much on trying to make all the columns even out, and not enough on actually trying to eliminate blocks. He's an architect, and he likes to see things in a fairly orderly fashion. (Maybe this was why, maybe he had his own reasons.) Anyway, she'd constantly be hollering at him about it because the blocks would be piling up, and he'd be too busy trying to fill an imperfection in the horizontal surface to do anything about it. (Which was ironic in a way, because she was terrible at Nintendo and rarely ever played it, except for Joust, a ridiculous ostrich-riding Medieval-style jousting game that we got hooked on in the arcade room of the hospital during my few days' stay after my appendectomy. So, for her to give advice on Tetris is like Michael Jackson and Patsy Ramsey giving parenting tips.)
Anyway, I'm my father's son. (I know, I know. I have to stop dropping bombshells like this.) So, I like it when the columns on this site's homepage are roughly equal in length – or, if one has to be longer, it should be the
left right one, since it's the "main" column. [Redesign! –Ed.] Which means that I was a little dismayed this morning when I realized that the "main" column was shrinking because all the posts were too old. I didn't have anything good to say – my brain is still buzzing with poker, poker, poker! – and I knew it wouldn't be long before the column evaporated entirely.
I finally had a chance to catch up on this week's Average Mulder column over at the Athletic Reporter:
If You Like Sports, You Need TiVo [Athletic Reporter]
Arksie has done a marvelous thing here, finding a way to shoehorn the glorification of TiVo into a sports context so he can put it on his site. Of particularly notable excellence is this passage, comparing DirecTV to other satellite options. "...the reason why TiVo (or any of the other, lesser digital satellite services you might subscribe to if you're a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, puppy-murdering Communist) is great in the first place..." Hear hear! Down with Echostar, and other off-brand DVRs. TiVo shall trounce you all!
His evaluation is spot-on: TiVo is absolutely essential. If you watch TV, you need TiVo. If you watch TiVo, you need DirecTV with TiVo. If you don't watch TV, more power to you, unless you're one of those "I don't own a TV" people for reasons other than not being able to afford a TV. If you choose not to own a TV because you think that says something about your level of intellectual discourse or your high standards of self-entertainment, I'll see you in hell. TV is what separates us from the animals (and people who lived before the 1950s, who – let's call a spade a spade – were pretty much indistinguishable from the animals). If you don't like much of what's on TV, great. Most of reality-obsessed network TV is pretty unwatchable. But there's still Alias and MST3K and Jon Stewart. If you flaunt your non-ownership of a television as a personality trait, you're a dope of the highest order. That's like saying, "Oh, no. I don't have a door. Doors are so hoi-polloi – I climb in and out through a window; window's are where it's really at." Anyway, get TiVo. A "Kill your television" bumper sticker is very cute as long as you still go home and watch Scooby-Doo reruns on Cartoon Network. An unironic "Kill your television" bumper sticker is pathetic, asinine, pseudo-intellectual snobbery. What are you, French?
(By the way, it's high time we started a charity for giving cheap TVs to people who can't afford them. I think we've reached a point in our civilization where we should be able to know someone's an asshole when they say, "I don't own a TV." Let's take the guesswork out of this.)
Okay, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Arskie on TiVo. God bless him for singing the praises of TiVo. For a while, there was a lot of hubbub about how great TiVo was, and then everyone either had it or at least knew that it was amazing, so you stopped hearing about it. Why is that? Do poets stop poemming just because everyone knows sunsets are beautiful? No!
As far as the specifics, I should say that, while his trick for watching live sporting events commercial-free is a very important one, there's one step he could cut out.
So, what you can do, particularly if you're watching an unimportant mid-season baseball game or any college basketball game, is leave TiVo on whatever channel the game's on, go back and watch something you've recorded for a half-hour, go back to the game, back TiVo up a half-hour, and start watching the game commercial-free. If and when you catch up to live, just do it again.
That works, and works well, but what you really want to do is pause live TV before you dig into your Now Playing list and select something pre-recorded to watch for 30 minutes. Then, when you're done viewing that, you return to live TV and (as long as no more than 30 minutes have elapsed), live TV is still paused, right where you left it. No messy rewinding (or waiting!). And, if you're concerned about going more than 30 minutes, you can always TiVo the live event you're watching. If you're planning to delete it almost as soon as it ends anyway, the disk space hit is nominal to just TiVo it for that brief period, and – if it's an important game at all – this saves you from accidentally changing the channel, or if you have to drive your pregnant wife to the hospital 25 minutes into your paused time.
And he's got it wrong (slightly) on TiVo Suggestions (tm). ("It's no skin off your nose; you just delete it.") You don't have to delete those; TiVo will do it for you. If you want, you can give a "thumbs down" to those which displease you, to help educate TiVo to fetch fewer programs like that in the future. But TiVo Suggestions are the first things TiVo deletes to record new programs, so spending your time deleting them makes for a tidier Now Playing list, but it's entirely unnecessary from a disk space standpoint.
It's about time more people took time to extol TiVo's virtues. TiVo is amazing. TiVo will change your life – even if you don't watch much television. TiVo absolutely revolutionizes the way you watch TV, whether live or recorded, and in many ways changes the way you think about the world. The concept of time is entirely redefined in a post-TiVo world. (Seriously.) And it provides such freedom, also. TiVo is like Neo. TiVo is the One. TiVo will set you free. No more rushing home to catch Arrested Development. Tell TiVo you want it, and it will be ready for you. No more worrying, "Did I set the VCR?" If The West Wing is new, TiVo will get it; if not, it won't. You don't even have to check. Your life is, once again, yours. Plus, I find myself very accustomed to the 8-second "instant replay" feature. I'm always trying to use it on TVs at non-TiVo households, or on my car radio. TiVo gets into your brain and lives there. Arksie is damn right; what are you doing without it?
(I should mention, by the way, that he makes the life of a Photoshop guru sound a lot better than it really is.)
There. Right column, take note. I think we've established who the real boss is around here.
Mon, April 19
Some terms and rules of Hold 'Em poker, as a reference for those reading my accounts of poker nonsense. (Read more.)
This year's World Series of Poker is coming up. My own Chris Moneymaker moment was slightly less profitable, but quite a high, nonetheless. (Read more.)
Sat, April 17
You heard it here first—9:18 AM
"Entertainment Weekly" features a "What To Watch" listing in its TV section every issue, a compilation of noteworthy (or not) upcoming airings with witty barbs by Dalton Ross.
Issue #761 (April 23, 2004), p 74:
Survivor: All-Stars (CBS) Is there any way we can bring back Lex just to watch him do something really stupid again? That was awesome. Maybe this time Boston Rob could convince the moron to vote himself off.
And, on this venerable site, Wednesday, April 7:
Who wants to bet Rob can get Lex to vote for himself?
Thank you, thank you.
Thu, April 15
Survivor disappoints me this week, because Rob gets what he wants, and Amber manages to narrowly escape the prospect of having to consider that maybe her life might be able to continue without Rob. The point is, I don't like Rob. (Read more.)
Wed, April 14
How Dare They?—6:00 PM
Okay, I thought I liked Low Culture, but this is almost unforgivable.
New York Second [Low Culture]
They're panning the new Mary-Kate and Ashley movie already, based only on the trailer! Come on! You can hardly tell anything from a trailer. (Except that I am totally seeing this movie. Mary-Kate running around in a towel? I'm not made of stone, people!)
Seriously, though. I'm all behind this post-modern cynical/apathetic deconstruction of super-sheeny Hollywood pablum like Van Helsing or Vin Diesel, but the Olsen twins? That crosses a line. They're not super-sheeny in an artificial Hollywood way. They're just super-sheeny. That's what they are. (And they're damn good comic actors, too. If you don't believe me, I've got episodes of Two of a Kind on TiVo!) There's such a thing as being rich, popular, cute, and talented. Don't hate them because they're twice as beautiful.
Gifted comedians Andy Richter and Eugene Levy saw fit to get involved, that's good enough for me. Plus, Drew "Dr. Drew" Pinsky as the Olsen Dad! This is going to be the best movie since Crossroads! (Sure, you think I'm kidding.)
The best thing about the New York Minute trailer is how often the girls are staged before the camera in a way that makes it look like a split-screen effect.
It's not just the Big Business-style blocking – the film is shot in that pretty, bubble-gum, slightly-overexposed style in order to make it feel brighter and bouncier. This means artificial light, even for sunlit exteriors. Which, for technical reasons, is a necessity in your split-screen movies as well, and therefore creates an immediate unconscious connection. Watch the trailer. At times, you can almost see the dividing line! (Maybe one of them got fat?) That would be the ultimate prank – convincing us that there were two of them for all these years. (Hey, maybe I could pitch that script to DualStar...)
Anyway, I know where I'll be on May 7th (and 8th) (and probably 9th). If New York Minute isn't the funniest, best written film of the year, what's the big deal? Why should the Olsen twins be held to a higher standard than Mike Myers?
Take That, Ken Burns!—10:57 AM
"I hope for the sake of Iraq's children this doesn't lead to a civil war. Then those kids would have to watch boring documentaries about it in school for the next 200 years."
What Do You Think? [The Onion]
Really, I could link to this feature every single week. But I have to show some restraint. Now, I have to go rename my band.
Programming Note—10:22 AM
The Man Who Knew [PBS]
Might be interesting. With Wonderfalls gone, you know you're not busy tomorrow night at 9, anyway. (Check local listings.)
Tue, April 13
Mentioned on this—10:26 AM
Mentioned on this morning's "O'Franken Factor":
I do wish the administration would realize that it's okay to sometimes say "we were wrong."
Mon, April 12
Intelligent design isn't just making things look pretty or choosing interesting colors. Good design encompasses usability and functionality as well as appearance. Case in point: the Swiffer. (Read more.)
Sun, April 11
Let Mickelson Win One—8:18 PM
...and they did.
It's rare that circumstances align to result in me watching golf on TV, but this weekend I found out that Phil Mickelson was in contention to win the Masters. I've always liked him, plus Arksie had a great idea for a 'Porter article if he did win, so I had twice as much reason to cheer him on. It was a thrilling final round with quite a climax. Good for Phil!
Thu, April 8
TiVo and I must mourn the loss of Wonderfalls tonight. I think I understand how Al Gore feels – it can be so damn maddening, not owning a TV network of my own. (Read more.)
It's appropriate that today's "One Year Ago" feature includes the rant against handing government (so, taxpayer) cash to faith-based programs. Off goes gall bladderless songsmith John Ashcroft to attack the purveyors of sexy images and protect the rest of us from thinking about boobies.
Here, a delightful retort from the blog community:
Ashcroft Mosaic [HubLog]
Wed, April 7
Burnett and his slavering lackeys have finally chosen the right time to rig one of the Survivor challenges, but this still makes a pathetic first show back from "clip week." (Read more.)
I love girls in bikinis!—8:57 AM
Chris Matthews Quote Watch [Wonkette]
Seriously. Just ask Amber.
Tue, April 6
Democracy... still viable?—11:51 PM
Those voters! Just when I am ready to give up on them completely, they get one right! Is this Karl Rove's doing? Is he trying to lull me into a sense of security?
The in-depth version: Stymied by Politicians, Wal-Mart... [NYT]
Somebody fetch Lacombe!—4:59 PM
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, Vol. 18 [Low Culture]
Some blog entries require no reading whatsoever.
(Not mine, of course. Theirs. This ain't a blog, I don't care what the government says! Give me back my daughter!)
Rebecca Romaine was 45. Never. "Church," Rebecca said.
Hard Boiled Eggers [Low Culture]
A funny automated (and wholly incoherent) summary of Dave Eggers's serialized political whatsimahoogie at Salon. This is the way we should do all our reading. (Dubya is truly ahead of his time.)
Can comedy still be funny?—10:47 AM
This takes some clicking and reading – and believe me, I'm not about to touch the Kos controversy itself – but it's a funny analysis of how certain dopes don't get sarcasm.
Kos of Much Trouble [Wonkette]
I know my readers. (Except that King of the Cowards! You confound me!!) They'll be able to read that and see the intricate and richly layered ambrosia of irony and sarcasm. Even if they've never read Wonkette before.
Not so at Instapundit or A Small Victory, though!
Blog Catfight [Instapundit]
Pretty fun. Wonkette's posted her sum-up of the thing; the fact that she has to specifically explain how irony works is a sad comment on the state of the blog world, almost as sad as the reaction to Kos in the first place. Silly righties.
Mon, April 5
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is excellent in the remake of Walking Tall, but the real star of the movie is right there on the poster with him – a length of 4x4" cedar. (Read more.)
Jesus God, that was fast!—10:15 AM
Fox Pulls Wonderfalls [TimMinear.net]
This is absurd! Fox really owed this series more of a chance. I liked it way more than I thought I would, critics seemed impressed too, and it was really going somewhere with a unique and interesting voice. I'm really disappointed, here. (TiVo, it should be noted, is not. Fewer Thursday night conflicts really ease his anxiety. Selfish little SOB.)
Sun, April 4
Deadwood: Alive with Pleasure!—10:37 PM
I originally tuned in to HBO's new series Deadwood because it seemed like a worthwhile idea and I'd heard somewhere that it's "more than just a western." Plus, you know, the nudity. Turns out, it's not much more than just a western. In fact, at first it appeared to be yet another of HBO's recent superficially complex but ultimately shallow and pretentious hour-long original series. It even had the requisite opening theme music – I swear, the themes to Carnivāle, Deadwood, and Six Feet Under are completely indistinguishable. But they hooked me in with Keith Carradine's dreary, laconic turn as Wild Bill Hickok, plus an interesting mixture of violence and Survivor-type alliance strategy. Two episodes later, they've now introduced Kim Dickens and Ricky Jay as the madam and casino boss, respectively, of a the town's new saloon. Sold! I'll stay around until they kill off those characters, at least. And it's a good thing – Carradine's performance is truly ingenious. Not since Clint Eastwood in A Perfect World have I seen such a magnificently tight-lipped and world-weary performance ("I do like tater tots."). But Carradine also adds ample wit and a splash of hackneyed apathy, making it impossible to turn away.
Also, Holy Christ am I in love with HBO's internal promotions! I've always enjoyed them, but lately they've gotten really inventive with their graphics and editing. Their "Two big movies. One big night." promotions have been dazzling me for months with their stunning achievements of visual juxtaposition. (In case you haven't seen them, they promote the premieres of back-to-back movies on HBO and Cinemax by running clips from the movies in split-screen, and the clips match up perfectly.) This week's match-up between Charlie's Angels and The Matrix: Reloaded is impressive, but nothing tops the first one I saw – managing to match films with such variations of theme, setting, and style as Unfaithful and Minority Report. It was truly astonishing the way they managed to line those clips up. Also new (at least to me) this week are the "You do the math" spots, which overlay perspective-matched clips of math equations on clips from their shows, and "What's a little networking between friends?" which superimposes clips from The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Carnivāle, Deadwood, and Curb Your Enthusiasm so that the characters really seem to be interacting. After doing similar (although much less arduous) match-up work for the Photoshop effects on the Athletic Reporter for the last year, I can really appreciate the hard work that goes into that sort of compositing. So, even if their shows mostly showcase preening pseudo-intellectual screenwriting run amok, between the Costas, the C Your E and the promo spots, HBO is still worth my $12 a month.
Sat, April 3
Looking Around—10:19 AM
Yipes! Only one new article this week. Sorry, kids. But I haven't been completely neglectful. Mini-rants on RIAA, Letterman, Disney, all excellent. And, lately, I've been commenting like a maniac on other sites. Looking for more of My Take On Everything? Here's what I've been saying on sites with readerships above the single-digit range...
Lakes, RIAA, Thelma [Tidball Rodeo]
Jeff Tidball has made the bold choice of not publishing an archive of his entries, so you have to look fast and check back often. I'm also prevented from linking to individual entries, but the three I mentioned have erudite comments from me, and you should check out the Banzai one also, because apparently I've become a common noun, just like TiVo, Coke, and Scotch tape. It feels good!
Update: As mentioned in the comments, His Tidballness has graced us with permanent (for now) links to archive material: Lakes, RIAA, Thelma, Banzai. Ancient comments didn't survive the redesign, so my wisdom is lost to the ages.
This is a website [What Do I Know]
I'm less of a frenzied devotee of What Do I Know than I was when I first started reading it, but Todd makes a terrific argument for why I don't have to call this a blog if I don't want to, and brings up interesting issues relating to why I wouldn't want to. It hit close to home for me because of the pathological fear of blogs that I've seen expressed by this site's readers, and as usual I blame the media. When people make a blog sound like something special and different, it gives off an exclusionary vibe and it sets readers on edge. To me, the difference between this section of the site and the longer-form columns is that it's updated more frequently and I put more links right in the text. Is that really so scary?
Thu, April 1
Here's hoping my mom won't fill the comments section with embarrassing stories from my childhood.
It's funny because it's true—3:25 PM
Being a tad behind on my TiVo, I actually heard about this first from Janeane Garofalo's new radio show "The Majority Report" last night. Then I went home and watched the two Letterman clips, and it couldn't be more obvious that the clip is genuine. Besides, if you know anything about Dave's style, when he edits a clip for humorous effect he goes out of his way to make it very obvious that it's edited. (For example, when Mel Gibson exploded Diane Sawyer, or the recent feature "Late Show Editing Fun" in which speeches are chopped up out of order – with obvious jump cuts – in order to make public figures say silly things.) It would completely defeat the purpose if Dave were to edit the clips with an eye toward realism. Preposterous!
And here's my favorite part: in her apology for the error, Daryn Kagan (Is there a more perfect ready-made name for one of CNN's current bevy of brunette-means-business anchorwomen – with their alluring-yet-staid burgundy lipstick, razor-sharp jawlines, and ultimately empty braincases? I submit that there is not!) reportedly "offered to come on [Letterman's show] for a Stupid Human Trick." Aw, see! We should forgive CNN for the fact that their level of White House ass-kissing has reached a point that they're now fabricating denials on behalf of the administration without any prompting from the Bushies, because they were able to look up a trite Letterman reference and make it appear like one of their anchors has watched his show!
Also awful: Disney still shows signs of moving forward with Toy Story 3 on their own.
Disney studio chief... [Reuters]
Particularly galling: "Disney's sequel to its own hit 'The Lion King' went straight to video and DVD this year [...] but Cook said the 'Toy Story' sequel was worth a bigger release." I think the Toy Story films are spectacular, whether or not I'm right that they can't be done properly without Pixar. And I do think they deserve a theatrical release. But to single them out that way makes it seem like The Lion King or Bambi are lesser films – both are classics and releasing cheap knock-off DVD sequels degrades the integrity of the original. Instead of specifically ushering Toy Story 3 into theatres, Disney should stop the practice of devouring their archives for home video fodder. If it isn't worth the investment of a theatrical release, then don't make a sequel of it! (It's also typical Richard Reid-style specious logic to be shutting down hand-drawn animation and investing only in CGI because Brother Bear was a dud and Finding Nemo did well. Finding Nemo was awesome, and it was created the right way by smart people. The people of Pixar make the difference, not the technology.) Stupid Disney!